The dredging of Boston Harbor got a critical boost Tuesday when funding for the $310 million project was included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, legislation that authorizes water projects throughout the country.
Deepening the main navigation channels would allow the Port of Boston to handle more and larger ships able to deliver twice the number of containers than can currently be accommodated. The project would allow the port to capture some of the New England-bound cargo that now comes into the country through New York.
Ports up and down the East Coast are dredging their navigation channels to make way for the larger ships. When the Panama Canal expansion is completed in the next two years, doubling its capacity, even more of these massive ships will be transporting goods to and from the United States.
Every dollar spent on the Boston Harbor project would generate nearly $9 of economic activity, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which will oversee the dredging — resulting in a $2.7 billion benefit for New England.
Design and construction would take about five years, according to the Massachusetts Port Authority.
The House and Senate previously voted on different versions of the bill but are expected to approve a compromise version next week.
Under the legislation, the federal government would fund about two-thirds of the $310 million cost, with the rest picked up by the state and the Massachusetts Port Authority.
“We would have a very difficult time maintaining a working port in the future if we did not have this dredging project funded,” said Thomas Glynn, the chief executive of Massport.
“This is a big step in keeping us competitive with other ports on the East Coast and maintaining what people in Boston treasure, which is the fact that we have a working port. When you look out the window, you see real ships doing real commerce.”