Concrete wharves may aid cement firm

The Port of Redwood City is preparing for a massive $11 million reconstruction project of its two oldest wharves, potentially doubling the shipping capacity of a local cement supplier whose material feeds construction projects across the Bay Area.

The port, which opened on the Redwood City Bayfront in 1937, is the only deep-water port in the South Bay, making it the only port in the Bay capable of handling heavy cargo, such as aggregate, gravel and liquids south of the Port of Oakland.

The reconstruction project would remove the existing wharves, which were built of wood more than 60 years ago, and replace them with a long concrete wharf that could support heavy equipment used to quickly load and unload ships.

The project would also include removing an old 30,000-square-foot warehouse, whichwould provide space for new port tenants or other uses, Port Director Michael Giari said.

Cemex, the cement company that uses the shipping area, can’t use heavy equipment to unload material on the wharves because of the wharves’ aged condition, Giari said.

“The plan will ensure that Cemex can continue to supply local building materials needed in the area and region,” Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen said.

Cemex imports crushed rock from local and Canadian sources to make cement for everything from local sidewalks to large-scale highway projects, including the reconstruction of the Bay Bridge.

With the fixes, Cemex should be able to berth and load or unload two barges at the same time — double the amount it can often handle now, Giari said.

While cement-making materials are available from California sources, the ability to barge raw rock from Canada helps keep construction costs down, said Mick Stangrover, a spokesman with highway contractor DeSilva Gates.

“When material comes from out of the area, the labor’s cheaper and there are a lot less regulations,” Stangrover said. To repave a single mile of six-lane freeway takes 10,000 tons of asphalt, he said.

There’s no question that construction costs can change based on the availability of material and the cost of that material, California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said.

“Look at the Bay Bridge,” she said. “The cost of reconstruction went up [to $5.5 billion] because the cost of steel went up.”

Initial studies of the wharf reconstruction should be finished this summer, Giari said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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