LaHood: Expedited port expansions will be 'economic engines for the Eastern seaboard'

"In fact, with the widened Panama Canal opening in 2014 to much larger ships, preparing U.S. ports for these Post-Panamax vessels is absolutely essential to the economic activity our ports support," LaHood continued.

LaHood said under his leadership, the DOT "takes its commitment to our ports seriously."

"During the past three years and four rounds of [Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery] grants, DOT has awarded $353 million to 25 different port-related infrastructure projects," he said.

"In addition to expediting these projects, the administration is also establishing a White House-led task force of senior officials from various White House offices and federal agencies," LaHood also said. "This task force will develop a federal strategy for future port and related infrastructure investments. America’s marine transportation system is a crucial part of our economy, and this administration has made a consistent effort from its earliest days to make our ports the best in the world."

The White House said at the time of the initial announcement that the ports — along with building an inter-modal container facility for cargo shipping in Jacksonville and increasing the height of a bridge between New York and New Jersey -- would be the first of 43 projects that will ultimately be expedited by Obama.

The expedited expansion projects are scheduled to be completed between 2012 and 2015.