U.S. Seaports Threatened By Crumbling Landside Connections
Connections at nearly 1/3rd of U.S. ports each need minimum $100 million in upgrades to handle projected 2025 freight volumes
While a port labor dispute generated headlines earlier this year, other challenges facing American seaports continue to threaten the long-term ability of these critical national gateways to efficiently move cargo, create jobs and strengthen the U.S. economy.
Prioritizing and funding much-needed improvements to road, rail, bridge and tunnel infrastructure that connects America’s seaports to the freight network was the topic of a press conference today by the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the unified and recognized voice of seaports in the Americas. The media gathering, held in conjunction with AAPA’s 2015 Spring Conference in Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, coincided with the release of AAPA’s 2015 The State of Freightreport, in which U.S. port authorities were asked to identify infrastructure investments needed at and near their ports to keep freight moving efficiently.
“At issue is the condition of land-side connections that serve as vital links between seaports and other segments of the nation’s freight transportation network,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO. “These ‘first and last mile’ connectors, along with other intermodal projects, are the very definition of critical transportation infrastructure. While ports and their private-sector partners are investing heavily into their facilities as international trade continues to grow, many of these connectors are antiquated, in disrepair, and are creating congestion issues that need to be urgently addressed.”
In a Martin Associates (Lancaster, Pa.) national economic port impacts report released today, U.S. seaport activity was cited as generating more than 23 million jobs and $321 billion in tax revenue in 2014. According to the report’s executive summary, the total value of maritime economic impacts related to America’s seaports last year was $4.6 trillion, or about 26 percent of the entire U.S. economy, compared to 20 percent of the U.S. economy in 2007.
In AAPA’s freight transportation infrastructure report, U.S. port leaders indicated the need for immediate and significant investment in the land-side arteries that carry freight to and from the nation’s seaports. Without adequate investment in the connecting infrastructure with America’s ports, the nation’s economy will suffer, the jobs that ports produce and the international competitiveness they sustain will erode, and American workers, families and employers will experience burdensome and costly hardships.
“The fact is that while over a quarter of the U.S. economy is accounted for by port cargo activity, freight connections to our ports are crumbling, putting our economy at risk and reducing America’s competitiveness in global markets,” said Mr. Nagle.
Summary findings of the AAPA’s 2015 The State of Freight report include:
Congestion is on the rise at land-side seaport connectors. More than one-third of respondents – 38 percent – said congestion at their ports’ land-side connections has increased between 10 percent and 25 percent over the past decade. More than 18 percent of respondents said congestion has increased between 25 percent and 50 percent, while 15 percent of respondents indicated increases of between 50 percent to more than 100 percent.
Congestion is hurting port productivity. One-third of respondents said congestion at their port’s land-side connectors over the past 10 years has caused port productivity to decline by 25 percent or more.
Investments are needed to improve road, rail, bridge and tunnel connections. Nearly a third of survey respondents said a minimum of $100 million or more must be invested in their port’s intermodal connectors through 2025. Another 18 percent of respondents said a minimum of $50 million is required, while 30 percent indicated a requirement of at least $10 million.
America’s freight network is vast and evolving. It’s a living grid and economic lifeline for the country; from small towns to major metropolitan areas, from farming regions to technology centers. At its heart are America’s seaports, which handle approximately $6 billion worth of goods that move to and from overseas markets each day. For this network to operate smoothly and efficiently, it must seamlessly connect commerce centers in every community, state and region. As indicated in AAPA’s 2015 The State of Freight report, investment in America’s port-related freight transportation infrastructure is an urgent national priority.