(TNS) -- FORT PIERCE — St. Lucie County’s vision to make the 290-acre Port of Fort Pierce an economic engine for the region is starting to see some progress.
After two years, the $7.3 million rebuilding of Second Street, the main road to the port, is 75 percent complete.
Rebuilding the road, which has sunken after years of heavy truck traffic, included upgrading gas, electric and water lines and building sidewalks and stormwater- retention ponds.
“The idea is to fix the infrastructure at the port so to entice new businesses to come,” said Kyle Croce, port engineer. “We look at this as the next step to rejuvenating the port, Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County.”
This week, crews are striping the road and planting palm trees and grass in the median and right of way, Croce said.
Matthew Shoup, co-owner of Taylor Creek Marina, said the rebuild has been a long time coming.
During heavy rains, the road flooded, trapping employees. And even on sunny, dry days customers wouldn’t venture out because of the pot holes and bumpy road condition.
“We have a lot of high-end customers who wouldn’t drive down the old road because of the road’s condition,” Shoup said. “Since the road has been rebuilt, I would say our customer based has increased by at least 3 percent.”
The port master plan envisions a maritime academy, refurbishing mega yachts and an area mixing retail with light cargo handling, compatible with the Indian River Lagoon.
The County Commission acts as the Port Authority, but Fort Pierce planning and zoning rules apply because the port is in the city.
As construction ends on Second Street, the county is turning its attention to Fisherman’s Wharf, the southern end of the port, which provides a buffer between the downtown to the south and the industrial area to the north.
Work includes soil quality testing, building new bulkheads, deepening the berth and possibly adding a second boat ramp, Croce said.
The city of Fort Pierce last year closed Fisherman’s Wharf Marina to docking because the bulkheads made conditions unsafe for docking, Croce said. However, the boat ramp and the fish, bait and tackle store remain open.
Fisherman Waylon Overstreet said he can put up with the road construction and temporary marina closure.
“I know they are trying to make things better out here,” Overstreet said on Friday, preparing to go lobster diving with two friends. “What we really need are better restrooms and another boat ramp. Sometimes I come out here and there is a line of four or five boats waiting to get in the water.”
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