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Construction Job In Panama Creating Jobs In South Florida

MIAMI (CBS4) - More than 100-thousand jobs are expected to be created in Florida in the next few years - all because of a construction project underway in Central America the expansion of the Panama Canal.

That means bigger ships with more cargo will be heading here. The expansion is underway. Crews are building new, bigger locks.

What that means are mega ships, known as "Post-Panamax" ships will be able to pass through. Right now, the narrow hundred year old locks leave no room to spare.

Phillip Allen from Port Everglades explained while those mega ships already come to South Florida ports, they're half empty. If they were loaded, they could not fit.

"It would be dragging on the bottom," said Allen.

That's why South Florida ports are already undergoing multi-billion dollar expansion programs to make room for the Post-Panamax ships.

At the Port of Miami , a huge tunnel is being constructed under Government Cut, and a rail line into the port is being restored. Both projects will make it faster to get goods out and on their way up the east coast.

A big dredging project will begin soon in the ship channel, that way the mega ships that will soon pass through the Panama Canal will be able to come in loaded.

Port Everglades plans to eventually dredge too. They're also expanding births so more ships can come  and adding a huge rail yard so cargo can go seamlessly from ship to rail.

Albert Smalls' family has worked at the Port of Miami for generations. He see this expansion fueling new jobs for decades. The state estimates there could be as many as 170-thousand statewide.

"This is exciting for me," explained Smalls. "I done seen the port grew from a small port to a tremendous port now a mega port it's about to become."

Perhaps one of the biggest cheerleaders of all is Governor Rick Scott. He's been touting the expansion plan since he was on the campaign trail. He quite the penny pincher, but says this is just one example of how Florida can spend money now, to make money later.

"We've got to make sure we have the money for the right infrastructure of the state," explained Governor Scott. "We've got to do the same thing with our ports, our rails, cargo rails, and then our highway system to make sure we can continue to grow, because if we don't we'll stop growing."

The Panama Canal expansion project should be complete sometime in 2014.


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