Local, state and federal transportation officials dedicate the new dock nearly 10 years in the making at the Port of Catoosa.
Port officials first applied for a federal grant in 2009. They didn’t get it until 2012, but it supplied about half the funding for the $12 million dock.
U.S. Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen said the nation will have 400 million citizens in a few decades, and that will mean more and more freight to move.
"It is imperative that we begin redirecting traffic from our increasingly congested roads and our highways and, in some cases, our shrinking rail base, to perhaps our most abundant and, clearly, our most precious national resource, and that is our vast network — 25,000 miles of inland rivers and waterways," Jaenichen said.
Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley said the new dock will create even more jobs than the port already does.
"If we can have our young people go to school, get a good education, stay here in Oklahoma, have job creation like the port does ... that can keep those kids here, it will certainly help grow what we believe is the heart of America, and that's in Oklahoma," Ridley said.
Port officials hope with the new dock and recent expansions to the Panama Canal, Oklahoma might become a new hub for container shipping.
"Many of my colleagues across the country said, 'Portiss, you're crazy.' Maybe I am," said Port Director Bob Portiss. "But I truly believe we'll be handling containers. The west coast ports are congested. That's one reason the Panamanians expanded the Panama Canal. It's gotta happen, folks."
The 720-foot dock can accommodate multiple cranes and includes a rail line for cargo transfers.