FreightWaves Flashback: Cross-Florida barge canal begins construction

The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each Friday FreightWaves will explore the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

The following are excerpts from the March 1964 edition of the Jacksonville Seafarer magazine, which over the years grew into American Shipper. FreightWaves acquired American Shipper in July 2019.

Click here to view the entire addition of the Jacksonville Seafarer – March 1964.

Cross-Florida barge canal contractors start digging

Dreams and efforts of 1,000 men are being realized with the start of construction on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal on February 27.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the clearing of a pine forest near the banks of the St. Johns River with two contractors ready to commence work on the project to link Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways into a fully integrated waterway system.

By the time another leap year rolls around, dredges, drag lines, constructors and other contractors will be busy along the entire 100-mile stretch between Palatka and the Gulf Coast of Florida. Construction will be at its peak in every area.

Before 1970, it is hoped that the entire waterway will be ready for use and (quite possibly) the rocket sections which will launch the first American to his landing on the moon will be transported through the canal.

The timing is such that it is quite conceivable the rockets enroute from Huntsville, Alabama, Houston, Texas, and New Orleans to Cape Canaveral will be the actual first shipments over the new waterway.

President Johnson accepted an invitation to attend and set off the first charge of dynamite in the groundbreaking.

Governor Farris Bryant and Senator Spessard Holland, both of whom worked diligently to bring the Cross-Florida Barge Canal into reality, were the principal state political figures participating in the groundbreaking ceremonies.

There were hundreds of other state, federal and local officials and civic leaders present who had spent many long hours gaining unified support for the project within the State of Florida, then selling it to other national groups and Congress prior to the first appropriations being granted by the 88th Congress.

Work on the canal is under the supervision of the Jacksonville District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

District Engineer Colonel H. R. Parfitt was delighted over the first bid openings for the new waterway when the first award was made at a price approximately 20% under the estimate which had been made by the Corps of Engineers.

If the pattern of low bids continues throughout the project, the total estimated cost of $158 million could drop as low as $135 million before the project is finished.

The improvements in engineering and contracting methods during the post-war period have substantially lowered the price tag which will be placed on many parts of the work. Some elements of work requiring large amounts of skilled labor and high-priced materials will, however, increase in price as time passes.

The Barge Canal will provide a channel 150 feet wide and 12 feet deep for the first time between the Gulf and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways.

The first contract award made on the project was a $226,760 job to Parkhill-Goodloe Inc., a Jacksonville dredging firm.

Engineers had estimated a cost of $285,000 for the work, which involves dredging of approximately one million cubic yards of material at the entrance to the canal to the St. Johns River, 6.5 miles south of Palatka.

Tidewater Dredging Corp. of Mataire, Louisiana, was the successful bidder on a second contract in the amount of $796,574 providing for a land cut several miles just west of the St. Johns lock, which will be installed at the eastern end of the waterway. The government estimate had been $1,185,376.

New interstate links Atlanta to Port

Atlanta and Jacksonville have been linked by the longest section of completed interstate superhighway in the United States.

Approximately 227 miles of freeway are now in service from the dock area in the Port of Jacksonville to the town of Unadilla, Georgia, near Macon.

The 32-mile link from Unadilla to Macon is nearing completion and construction of the interstate highway that will supplement Georgia’s own primary road system between Macon and Atlanta is well underway.

By next summer, all of Florida’s five largest cities – Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and St. Petersburg – will be linked by completed highways.

“Highway” story right of center.

Citrus industry will recover from freeze by 1967 season

A nationally known business consulting firm expects the Florida citrus industry to be back in full production by 1967 and has recommended to the Florida Citrus Commission that it prepare now to handle the large production.

The firm of Booz, Allen and Hamilton of New York has recommended that the Commission create a new commercial development department to push unified marketing and product research and thus widen the total sales of Florida citrus products.

Booz, Allen predicts that Florida will produce 135 million boxes of oranges and 29 million boxes of grapefruit by the season of 1967/68. The state will need to expand its development of products and markets in order to dispose of the production by then.

Citrus production has been curtailed since December 1962 when a disastrous freeze hit the state. The production loss had been so severe that Florida has become a major importer of citrus rather than exporter during the past year.

The management consultants urge the commission to adopt more long-range objectives, to increase the self-tax which the industry pays to finance commission efforts, and to adopt a five-year advertising planning cycle rather than the three-year cycle which is now used.

“Citrus recovery” article at bottom.