1. Business

Port of Tampa prepares for expansion with $8.9 million purchase of 110 acres

TAMPA — Florida's largest port just got bigger.

The Tampa Port Authority purchased 110 acres alongside Port Redwing for $8.9 million on Thursday, setting the stage for expansion at the port's southernmost facility near Gibsonton.

"Land is one of our strengths as a port ... as we are able to grow in size as well as in our diverse portfolio," said Port Director and CEO Richard Wainio in a prepared statement.

The land was purchased from South Bay Corp. and Industrial Park, Inc., the authority said. Adding land is part of the Port of Tampa's long-range plan.

The acquisition will allow the port to "develop the land for cargo terminals and distribution, as well as cargo generating industrial manufacturing activities," according to the authority. The Port Authority hopes the expansion will help attract new business.

The port already handles petroleum, phosphates, cargo containers and cruise ship passengers and takes in 40 percent of Florida's sea cargo. But in the past five years its total tonnage has dropped by 14 million tons, to 34 million tons.

The new land will allow the port to connect a rail line from the CSX mainline track to Port Redwing to speed the unloading of cargo.

That's why the Port Authority is already working on a new rail line and roadway that will connect Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.