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Executives stress importance of ports in infrastructure plan
Kirill Abbakumov   on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 9:00:00 am

With President Trump promising to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years, the pledge is receiving significant attention by both Congress and the new administration. Given the focus on infrastructure this month, the time was ripe for a group of port executives to make a pitch to House staff members on February 9 to be part of any broad package of infrastructure spending that moves through Congress this year. 

Mark McAndrews, the chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), was joined by the heads of ports in California, New York, Texas and Indiana. The group told a room of staff members for lawmakers who are members of the Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade and Security Caucus in the House that investments in ports, harbors and waterways should be part of any infrastructure legislation that moves this year. Billions of dollars in backlogged projects threaten the economic benefits that ports bring to the national economy.

According to AAPA, cargo activity at ports supports over 23 million jobs and touches 25% of the national economy. Federal investment in ports infrastructure would spur other investment. A recent survey by the association projected that ports intend to invest more than $155 billion over the next five years. “For America to be internationally competitive, it’s critical that the federal government uphold its end of the partnership and invest in port-related infrastructure on both the landside and the waterside,” claimed AAPA representatives.

The ports advocates encouraged Congress to spend some of the roughly $9 billion surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that receives revenue from taxes collected on imports and exports. The issue is supported by Democrat Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, who proposed a measure last year through a water resources bill that would have allowed the trust fund surplus to be spent without a specific appropriation. The measure was stripped from the final law (PL 114-322).

DeFazio has proposed the measure again, saying the measure would allow up to $27 billion in harbor maintenance over the next decade, with the federal government focusing on projects like harbor and channel dredging, rehabilitation and replacement of locks, jetties and breakwaters without raising taxes.