The goods we transport are the lifeblood of our economy. So as our nation moves freight into and out of the country, we depend on the efficiency of our ports and port facilities to keep that freight –and our economy— moving.
One of the key pieces in the freight puzzle is the challenge of the first and last miles, the transfer of goods between the container ships that tie up in our ports and the network of fast-moving rail and highway arteries that web our nation.
Yesterday at the Port of Seattle, I saw firsthand how intermodal freight transfer is an essential function in our transportation network and how it can clog the flow of goods. I also saw a port making strategic investments to speed up that transfer and maintain its competitiveness in the decades ahead.
Each day, more than 5,000 containers arrive at the Port of Seattle. As our nation’s 10th largest container port, Seattle is a critical node in a trade corridor that stretches from Asia across the Pacific Ocean and then across the U.S. to the Midwest and the East Coast.
By 2050, our nation will have to move almost twice the amount of freight we move now, and our ports will need to be able to handle that exponential growth. In addition, the widened Panama Canal will soon allow super post-Panamax ship traffic, and ports will need to accommodate these massive vessels to compete in the global freight network.
At DOT, we’re working to ensure they have the means to do so. The $20 million TIGER grant awarded to the Port of Seattle will help strengthen and extend an aging dock, enabling it able to accommodate two post-Panamax ships at a time. This investment will also allow the port to improve safety and reduce roadway congestion by constructing a separate truck ramp with more direct access to the port’s intermodal yard.
All of this helps, but there is still more to be done for the more than 20,000 people who work at the Port of Seattle and at ports across our nation. This year alone, worthwhile projects applying for our TIGER grants sought $9.5 billion. Unfortunately, for every dollar in TIGER projects that we were able to fund, there was $15 in needed investment that we could not.
That means deferring critical investments in our highways, critical investments in rail, and critical investments in our ports. The same roads, rails, and ports that connect farmers and manufacturers with overseas markets and that move goods to store shelves in your community.
That’s why we’re working overtime for increased investment throughout our surface transportation network through the GROW AMERICA Act. This four-year, fully-funded, $302 billion transportation bill would invest $5 billion for four more years of TIGER grants and includes a long-overdue $10 billion grant program for multimodal freight improvement projects.
If passed by Congress, GROW AMERICA would develop a truly integrated freight system, one where our ports and roads and rail work seamlessly together to help our nation meet the challenges we know lay ahead. That’s the future the Port of Seattle and your DOT are fighting for.