Former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell Calls for Port, Waterway Strategy in Speech to American Association of Port Authorities
MOBILE, AL- Today, former Pennsylvania Governor and co-chair of Building America’s Future Ed Rendell, warned that billions of dollars of economic activity in the U.S. is at risk if goods cannot be reliably transported to and from American ports. Rendell addressed the American Association of Port Authorities, focusing on the economic impact of our nation’s congested and aging infrastructure system. He called for federal action to support reform measures and a robust, long-term infrastructure plan.
As much as 60 percent of American-made products are now exported, but Rendell warned that billions of dollars of economic activity could be at risk. “The bottom line is that delays in freight movement impose real costs on businesses that reduce productivity, impede our competitiveness and increase prices for consumers” Rendell said.
Freight moving by water is slowed by constraints on capacity and limitations of aging infrastructure. Many of American ports were built for the last century’s economy, without sufficient intermodal access for increased container traffic, Rendell said. Inland waterways are similarly overburdened: dozens of locks along major inland shipping routes are past their 50-year lifespan, some more than a century old. The needed investment is staggering. Rendell cited the Society of Civil Engineers’ recent report on the Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Airports, Inland Waterways and Marine Ports Infrastructure that documented a nearly $16 billion investment gap in meeting the needs of our nation’s ports and inland waterways.
Rendell said ports and all of their associated activities and needs are a prime example of why a long-term strategic plan is needed. Activity generated from ports affects roads, bridges, railroads, the environment and the economy. Policy makers in Washington from both parties need to make this a priority.
“In 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked US infrastructure number one in the world. Today, we are ranked number 14,” Rendell said. “If we continue to put off critical infrastructure investments, we will only fall further behind the rest of the world. 21st Century infrastructure policy so that we can improve our economic competitiveness, move people and goods efficiently, foster job creation and enhance the quality of life for our citizens.”
Federal transportation policy is in dire need of modernization as it still largely adheres to an agenda crafted 50 years ago. Part of Building America’s Future’s mission is to impress upon elected leaders and policymakers that they need to assert a new vision for 21st century transportation - one that makes a long-term commitment to infrastructure investment and that prioritizes investment in our economically vital gateways and corridors.
The two year transportation bill passed by Congress in July (MAP-21) begins to lay the groundwork on some of the policy reforms that Building America’s Future supports, but more needs to be done. For example, America is the only industrialized nation that does not have a comprehensive freight strategy. Congress also needs to pass the RAMP Act so that the surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is invested in deepening America’s critical ports.
Rendell concluded: “After November 6, the President and the new Congress need to make a long-term infrastructure plan a priority. The consequences of inaction are too great.”
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State and local governments account for about 75 percent of total public spending on transportation and water infrastructure and the federal government accounts for the other 25 percent.