Critical cargo shipments could be left sitting on the dock with nowhere to go unless the Congress passes the Bush Administration’s surface reauthorization bill, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said on a visit to the bustling Port of Jacksonville.
There, the Secretary watched as a massive crane loaded container after container on the Horizon Discovery for a two-day voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The beehive of activity at JaxPort plays out each and every day at seaports around the nation, Mineta said as he toured the docks and met with workers. Gigantic cranes taller than buildings load and unload billions of dollars worth of cargo every day in America. Freight volumes are soaring right now from coast to coast, but the economy could stall if the shipments can’t get to the store shelves.
The answer to relieving the bottlenecks lies in the Administration’s long-term reauthorization of highway, traffic and safety programs, Mineta said.
The President’s bill, known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and
Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA), would provide funding for port-related road projects to reduce congestion as trucks hauling hundreds of thousands of trailers headed for market leave their docks each day.
“The connections between our ports and the highways that serve them must be as efficient as the ports themselves,” he said.
Mineta put the SAFETEA bill on center stage today as he continues his five-state bus swing through the South in celebration of National Transportation Week. At each stop along the way, he will highlight major transportation issues facing the country, including aviation infrastructure funding and intercity passenger rail reform.
At the Port of Jacksonville, Mineta said the President is committed to working with Congress to pass a bill that would spend a record $284 billion on highway, safety and transit projects, but warned the Administration would not “give in to pressure to approve irresponsible plans that would no doubt lead to higher deficits or new gas taxes.”
The SAFETEA proposal is the first to include provisions that would help pay for better highway connections to ports, he pointed out.
From Jacksonville it was on to Tallahassee for a news conference with
Governor Jeb Bush to announce a major federal hurricane relief grant totaling more than $1 billion. The aid reimburses Florida and nine other states for the costs associated with the hurricanes that scarred and battered roads, bridges and airports.
Secretary Mineta’s National Transportation Week bus tour cruises through Alabama and Louisiana before coming to a close on Thursday.