The journey of much of our nation’s commerce begins or ends at our ports – whether they are on the East, West or Gulf Coasts. Billions of dollars in economic goods pass through these vital trading routes and to ensure America is able to export products from our businesses we must ensure these ports operate more efficiently and can handle the projected increase in cargo traffic. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, there are 360 American sea and river ports. By 2020, every major U.S. container port is projected to at least double the volume of cargo it was designed to handle. Some West Coast ports will triple in volume and some West Coast ports will quadruple. On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways.
While our nation has vibrant network of port facilities, we are not doing enough to keep up with our international competitors. Other countries are leapfrogging past us by investing in world-class ports. China is investing $6.9 billion; the port of Shanghai now has almost as much container capacity as all U.S. ports combined (Source: Brookings Institute).
With the increase in supersized vessels, it is more critical than ever before that the appropriate resources are devoted to deepening our ports as to accommodate these new and larger vessels. The number of the world's Post-Panamax vessels, container ships that are too large to fit through the Panama Canal, increased from 331 in 2001 to 561 in 2004, with another 426 on order (USDOT MARAD 2005). We must wisely invest in port deepening projects so that we remain competitive with ports like Halifax and Vancouver.
Impediments to the efficient movement of goods can help drive up costs to consumers. Too often outdated infrastructure impedes the efficient flow of goods into and out of our ports. We must also employ innovative ideas and technologies to help reduce congestion at our nation’s ports. Initiatives like the Port of Los Angeles’ PierPass have helped make strides in reducing bottlenecks.
To remain economically competitive with the rest of the world, means having a modern and first class port system.
When we think of America’s transportation system we often think of the roads in our own communities, the interstate highway system, and the trains, buses, and ferries we ride on daily. But it is much more than our individual mode of travel or our local road that makes up this network. There are approximately 4 million miles of roads, 117,000 miles of rail, 600,000 bridges, 26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways, 11,000 miles of transit (including more than 5,000 miles of rail transit), more than 3,000 transit rail stations, 300 ports, and 19,000 airports that permit us to move about the United States. Much of that infrastructure was built decades ago and the repair and maintenance of that system is falling behind.
Investments in our transportation infrastructure results in job creation. For every $1 billion in federal investment in transportation infrastructure, an estimated 27,800 to 34,800 jobs are created (Department of Transportation, 2008).
A modern transportation system will provide more reliability for goods and people to reach their destinations, boost our nation’s economic competitiveness and enhance the quality of life for all Americans.
Americans households spend 17.6% of their budgets on transportation (the second largest expense after housing). America’s poorest households spend more than 40% of take-home pay on transportation – a figure that has increased 33% since 1992 (APTA: Changing the Way America Moves, Spring 2009).
The United States is falling behind other countries when it comes to infrastructure investments. For example, by 2020, China plans to build 55,000 miles of highways, more than the total length of the U.S. interstate system (Atlanta Fed, 2008).
Repairing existing roads and bridges creates 9 percent more jobs per dollar than building new roads or bridges (Surface Transportation Policy Project, 2004).
Building America’s Future Educational Fund believes that every American, elected official, and business must care about the future of our transportation network.
As an American, these are your roads, your highways, your rail and transit systems, and you deserve the right to enjoy them. As elected officials, it is our duty to ensure the resources and investments are made wisely, efficiently, and transparently.
We will continue to educate those charged with maintaining and building our national transportation system about the benefits to America’s economic competiveness, job growth, and goods and people movement when we make these smart investments.