U.S. Ports Need $66 Billion for Infrastructure

Published May 17, 2017 8:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

A panel discussion held in conjunction with Infrastructure Week has heard that U.S. ports need a combined $66 billion in federal government infrastructure investments.

The panel briefing was held by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and the Congressional PORTS Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). 

“Overall, activities at our nation’s ports support 23 million American jobs, generate $4.6 trillion in annual economic activity and produce $321 billion a year in tax receipts,” said Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of AAPA. 

“To build America’s 21st century seaport infrastructure and ensure these economic impacts continue, our ports need a combined $66 billion of federal investments over the next 10 years into the roads, rails and waterways that connect to them.”

Chief among the topics discussed was implementation of the freight-related provisions under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first long-term surface transportation legislation to authorize funds for freight mobility, providing $2 billion annually through 2020.

“We’ve got to maintain the FAST Act’s momentum by funding port-related infrastructure, including the connections on the land- and water-side to optimize the supply chain and enhance America’s competitiveness,” says Nagle.

Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director, said: “State transport departments have embraced the charge made in the FAST Act to establish state freight plans that will serve as the building blocks for the nation’s 21st century multi-modal freight network.

“When America invests in surface transportation infrastructure that supports the movement of freight and goods, it supports economic development, jobs and quality of life because everything from life-saving medications, to automobiles and food, moves on the freight network.”

“In Louisiana we estimate we’ll need to invest nearly $56 billion to improve our ports, highways, waterways, rail and other important infrastructure over the next 25 years,” said Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary, Dr Shawn Wilson. “That’s a major investment in our state and without the help of the Federal government, freight investments in Louisiana and other states won’t be enough to allow states and this country to be globally competitive or successful.”

In a dynamic environment, port and state transport department officials need the funding and flexibility to adapt to new trade patterns in order to accommodate anticipated freight growth, says AAPA. Congress must continue to provide the resources to states for highway freight projects through the National Highway Freight program and fully enable tax revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Tax to be used for the intended purpose of navigation channel maintenance. 

The panelists also covered other aspects of multi-modal freight infrastructure issues, ranging from enhancing rail access to dredging projects to accommodate larger ocean-going ships.