ATLANTA — Georgia’s preparations for the next generation of large container ships has dragged on for 16 years and involves hundreds of millions of dollars in rail, road and waterway improvements, but that’s a dingy compared to the titanic efforts to widen the Panama Canal.

The story is well known of how the state has set aside $266 million for its share of deepening the shipping channel of the Savannah River while awaiting federal approval and the lion’s share of the money. A week ago, President Barack Obama signed a budget bill into law that effectively gives the state a green light to begin work in the next six months or so with its own funds while Congress gets around to appropriating the federal share.

Familiar are the battles with environmental groups warning of saltwater intrusion into the Floridan Aquifer and South Carolina politicians protective of their competing port in Charleston.

Georgia officials have been racing to be ready with the highways and deepening by the completion of the canal widening, originally slated for this year, the hundredth anniversary of its opening. But the Peach State isn’t alone in being behind schedule. 

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