Seaports: A key to economic recovery

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A study by the American Society of Civil Engineers recently found that China, India and European nations are spending the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars on efficient public transportation, energy and water systems. But because the U.S. has chosen to spend its dollars elsewhere, a five-year investment of $2.2 trillion is needed just to make our infrastructure safe and dependable – in other words, the bare minimum. 
Transportation only accounts for two percent of the federal government’s total discretionary spending for the 2012 fiscal year. What’s more, existing transportation programs do not adequately address the movement of goods.   At a time when we so desperately need to invest in our country’s future and long-term growth, it’s disconcerting that policymakers choose to allocate resources elsewhere – and on projects that may generate minimal return on investment.
So the question remains: why aren’t America’s seaports getting the funding required to create jobs, deepen harbors, facilitate trade and help get our country back on track?
Now is the time to improve our nation’s seaport related infrastructure - on the land and waterside - to not only increase America’s competitive side but also our ability to accommodate trade growth and expanded exports. Without the roads, rail, port facilities and navigation channels to move goods from the heartland to waiting overseas markets, President Obama’s National Export Initiative aimed at doubling U.S. exports by 2015 will be difficult to meet ..That’s not to say that seaports aren’t helping the President achieve this ambitious goal. We are, but we can’t do this alone.
Despite an economic downturn, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has not slowed a $2 billion partnership with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to deepen the harbor to 50 feet by 2014.  The Port of Oakland, a major exporting seaport, has recently invested over $700 million to develop and modernize several facilities and enhance the environment, while Port Freeport in Texas is spending over $400 million in its facilities to handle increasing trade and to strengthen port security.
But there’s still much more to be done and the federal government has an important responsibility to maintain and improve our infrastructure for the good of the nation.
We must find new ways to invest in the seaports and connecting infrastructure that deliver the goods that Americans depend on each and every day; the seaports that help protect our nation’s borders and help deploy troops and military equipment to overseas locations; the seaports that take on the role of stewards of our coastal resources and environment and answered the call to handle thousands of feet of boom to help contain the historic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf; and the seaports that export our goods to market and create opportunities to keep America competitive in the global marketplace.
Strong federal investment in our nation’s seaports will get America back on track to economic prosperity by creating jobs, enabling increased international trade and keeping our country competitive for generations to come.


Kurt Nagle is the president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) based in Alexandria, Virginia.