Supporters of a Delaware River channel deepening project marked the project’s progress and rallied to help assure funding continues until its completion.

Port of Philadelphia rallies to preserve river deepening fundingDuring an Aug. 7 event, a crowd of local, state and federal officials celebrated the project at the Port of Philadelphia’s Packer Ave. Marine Terminal, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority’s largest cargo facility.

The project increases the main shipping channel’s depth from 40 to 45 feet.

Port officials say a deeper channel should allow the port to handle larger modern vessels up and down the Delaware River’s private and public facilities in Delaware, southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The 103-mile navigation channel is being widened in stages.

The 20-mile sections in Delaware are complete while an 11-mile stretch near the Philadelphia International Airport is scheduled to begin construction in September.

Deepening of a 14-mile Delaware segment is planned to commence in December, according to a news release.

Port officials said the $311 million project received $16.7 million this year in federal funding with $29.7 million pending in the fiscal 2013 budget.

The Panama Canal also is being widened and deepened.

Once completed, the Panama Canal project should bring larger ships, particularly from Asia, to East Coast ports, officials said.

“We still have a while to go, as the shipping channel is 103 miles long,” port chairman Charles Kopp said in the release. “But seeing today’s show of support from our government leaders and the maritime industry, and keeping in mind all that we’ve already accomplished, I can’t imagine that we won’t get this project done on time and on budget, and start reaping the rewards.”