Vice President Biden toured a dredging barge at Penn's Landing on Thursday to show support for the project to deepen the Delaware River shipping channel.

Biden, the latest high-profile politician to visit the region in recent days, was flanked by a phalanx of Pennsylvania Democrats - U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., and U.S. Reps. Robert A. Brady and Chaka Fattah.

Before delivering remarks on the ongoing deepening of the Delaware, Biden and the delegation were taken on a tour of the large barge by Brian Puckett, project manager for Great Lakes Dredging & Dock Co.

The vessel's main feature, a dredging bucket that can haul as much as two dump trucks, immediately caught Biden's eye.

"That's a hell of a bucket," the vice president said after walking a gangplank onto the ship.

Biden's visit was to highlight the project, which aims to deepen about 100 miles of the waterway between the Delaware Bay and Philadelphia.

Initiated in March 2010, the project could be completed in 2017, according to Ed Voigt, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Biden noted that the effort will allow larger container ships to travel the river, which he called essential for economic development.

"We need this work," he said. "We need this port."

Biden said Brady has been an enthusiastic advocate for the project - even calling his cellphone while Biden was on a trip to Germany.

President Obama has proposed $35 million for the project in his 2015 fiscal budget. The overall cost for the multiyear deepening will likely be around $300 million, Voigt said.

Biden said the project will not only keep the Philadelphia port competitive, but will help support middle-class jobs and extend the legacy of the waterway.

"The Delaware River has been the heart of commerce for this valley for 300 years," he said.

Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton each visited Philadelphia to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, and New Jersey Gov. Christie stopped at Valley Forge Military Academy and College last week to stump for a fellow Republican, Gov. Corbett.

President Obama is also expected to campaign for Wolf in Philadelphia before the Nov. 4 election.

cpalmer@phillynews.com

609-217-8305 @cs_palmer