Rawlings-Blake to travel with Vice President Biden to tour Panama Canal expansion

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to travel with Vice President Joe Biden to tour the Panama Canal expansion project next week, her office said Friday.

The costs of the two-day trip will be covered by the federal government, the city said. Biden and Rawlings-Blake also plan to meet with Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli.


Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Kasim Reed of Atlanta also will be attending.

Rawlings-Blake said it was "an extreme honor to be one of the few cities chosen" to get a close-up view of the work.


"It speaks volumes about the potential future job creation," she said. "Baltimore is a really important component of the country's shipping trade."

The expansion is expected to be a big boost to Baltimore's port, because it will allow larger ships to pass through the canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The project will triple the capacity of the canal, officials said.

The Port of Baltimore is one of two ports on the East Coast capable of handling "super size" container vessels, the mayor's office said. The three largest ocean carriers in the world recently formed an alliance and pledged three weekly trips to Baltimore from northern Europe, the west Mediterranean and the Far East.

Rawlings-Blake also cited the planned 1.1 million square-foot Amazon warehouse distribution center as another key boost for Baltimore's port.

As she travels abroad, Rawlings-Blake is also dealing with community opposition at home on a project she says is important to the port. Key members of the City Council have turned against a $90 million terminal project that would allow CSX Transportation to ship more cargo more quickly between the port and the rest of the country.

Community members in Morrell Park have said they're opposed to the proposed around-the-clock operation, served by about 310 trucks a day, that would allow shipping containers to be stacked two high on trains, which is a more efficient way to move them than by truck.

Asked about the project Friday, the mayor said she still supports the proposal.

"Our competitiveness would be enhanced if there were a way to be competitive when it comes to double-stacking," Rawlings-Blake said.