A major gateway to Baltimore's port is getting a $44 million upgrade and commercial trucks will be required to use specific streets in Southeast Baltimore to alleviate congestion under a plan to be announced Tuesday morning by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Preparation work on the Southeast Road Reconstruction Program has begun and all work is expected to be completed by fall 2014.

Rawlings-Blake called the port "one of the pillars of growth" in the city and said the upgrades will not only help the maritime industry expand but will make streets safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The first phase will rebuild Broening Highway, the artery that handles hundreds of trucks daily from the Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals and several industrial parks, at a cost of $18.5 million. The city will keep one lane open in each direction during work to keep port disruptions to a minimum, said Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation. At the same time, crews will upgrade Colgate Creek Bridge and the Keith Avenue ramp to Interstate 95.

The second and third phases consist of intersection improvements and streetscaping along Dundalk Avenue, with new sidewalks, curbs, signs and street lights. The price tag is $18.6 million.

Finally, the mayor announced a plan to designate routes for commercial vehicles to lessen traffic on local streets near the port. A citywide route map with GPS coordinates has been developed, and overhead signs will direct trucks to the most direct way to interstates and major highways.

An electronic enforcement system tied into the red light cameras will catch truckers using unapproved routes or failing to comply with other motor vehicle laws. First-time violators will get a warning and repeat offenders will be fined, Barnes said. The system will be phased in starting next spring and will be completely operational in 2014.

"These investments demonstrate our commitment to improving local communities and supporting the Port of Baltimore as a major shipping center along the East Coast," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

The money for the project came from a combination of local, state and federal governments.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com