GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's designed to improve access and enhance security at the Port of Gulfport. The port authority board of commissioners held a ribbon cutting Thursday morning for a new security gate at the west side of the port.
The six-lane entrance will accommodate existing cargo traffic, with an eye toward the future. The federal Department of Homeland Security paid the vast majority of the $2 million cost.
Port Executive Director Jonathan Daniels calls the dedication of the new gateway a watershed moment for improved security and access.
"This takes us into the next generation of security and access," said Daniels, in remarks he made just before the ribbon was cut.
The new security gate can handle six lanes of truck traffic at the Port of Gulfport. Those lanes can also be switched from incoming to outgoing traffic as demand dictates.
"Having this facility in place meets access control needs as well as security needs, into the future," said the director.
Port authority vice chairman, John Rester, cut the ribbon to make the dedication official. The new gate will actually open in a week or two, following some finishing touches that include installing phone and data lines.
"This is just another step in the ongoing restoration and expansion of the port. It's a very important step because it goes hand in hand with our homeland security issues. It's a new secure gate that gives us better ingress and egress. We're just delighted," said commissioner Rester.
Port Director Daniels says the six lane gate will ease the occasional congestion that occurs when cargo flow is busiest.
"If you look now, we have three access points. And it's one road in, one road out. So, we have one lane in, one lane out. And by doing that you can end up with choke points," Daniels explained. "It really allows us the opportunity to take any of the bottle necks, take any of the choke points out of accessing the port or leaving the port on those days we're having a lot of dispatch of cargo."
Security at the port is a shared responsibility between the federal government and the State of Mississippi. Port security was tightened significantly after 9/11, meaning extremely limited public access.
"We're okay with that. Because ultimately we understand that because not only are we working hand in glove in making sure we provide that flexible access, but we also need to make sure that the general public is safe," said Daniels.
The port authority vice chairman says the Port of Gulfport is making tremendous progress. He pointed to the new lease and development with Island View casino and the deal with Dupont to expand its port presence. Those two projects represent $130 million of active economic development at the port.