Land and waterside programs crucial to building America’s 21st century seaport infrastructure

Alexandria, VA - Retiring Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, this week released a legislative discussion draft outlining his vision to invest in U.S. infrastructure, including for surface and water transportation programs.

Among those voicing support and appreciation for Cong. Shuster’s leadership in promoting this discussion is the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) – the unified and recognized voice of America’s seaports.  Funding for seaport-related infrastructure is a top AAPA priority. 

Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
The association projects the seaport industry will require about $66 billion in infrastructure investments over the next decade to ensure U.S. job creation, economic growth and tax fairness. This includes nearly $34 billion for waterside projects, like deep-draft dredging of harbors and channels, and about $32 billion for landside projects, like road and rail connectors to ports.

Chairman Shuster’s proposal (also on Twitter @transport and #Building21) includes significant improvements to both the surface transportation system linking to ports and waterside funding needed to maintain America’s harbors.  It outlines ideas on how to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent, authorizes a national infrastructure investment program similar to TIGER/BUILD, and extends FAST Act freight programs for a year – all of which are important to U.S. ports.  The proposed legislation also includes a mechanism to allow revenue deposited in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which funds maintenance of federal navigation channels into U.S. ports, to be fully appropriated and expended each year.

“AAPA thanks Chairman Shuster for supporting improvements to America’s transportation infrastructure and we look forward to working with his committee and others in Congress to ensure, in particular, that freight transportation infrastructure continues to be a high priority and works well for ports,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “Two important priorities AAPA would look to have addressed in any infrastructure legislation would be to raise the multi-modal cap on the FAST Act funds and broaden the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) provision to tie it to the recent port industry agreement.”

This past spring, AAPA’s U.S. member ports approved a long-term solution for HMT spending to achieve a fair and equitable distribution formula for HMT revenues. Mr. Nagle noted that adoption of AAPA’s distribution formula “would fix the inequities in our current system while addressing the health and well-being of our seaport water highways that are critical for delivering goods and services to all Americans.” 

According to Cong. Shuster, his discussion draft is “intended to further the national conversation about the current state of America’s infrastructure and highlight some of the major roadblocks to funding and improving our transportation network.”

Cargo activities at America’s seaports are significant drivers of the U.S. economy, supporting more than 23 million American jobs and generating over $320 billion in annual federal, state and local taxes. All but 1 percent of the nation’s overseas trade moves through its maritime facilities, and U.S. seaport cargo activities account for more than one-quarter of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.