Last Thursday, Brigadier General Thomas W. Kula of the Army Corps of Engineers spoke to a group regarding the need for expedited improvements to Texas ports to prepare them for the post-Panama Canal expansion traffic that will begin in 2015. To date, only the west coast has been receiving the larger freighters, tankers, and transports. However once the project to double the width of the canal is finished, that cargo will be moving through to the east coast ports of Norfolk, VA and Baltimore MD. This new business has already spurred huge infrastructure projects on the east coast, including a rebuilding of the rail transport infrastructure and installation of new Post-Panamax cranes at multiple ports at a cost of more than $10M each. However, Texas is not the only port interested in vying for this new business. As Brig. Gen. Kula noted, Savanah, GA; Wilmington, NC; and Miami Dade are all looking to install cranes and upgrade their ports to accommodate the new traffic. If the Gulf Coast is going to remain competitive for this traffic, there will need to be a focused and fast-paced effort to prepare Texas ports for the next generation of freight transport.
In a study performed for the Maryland Department of Transportation, the potential value of the added freight and logistics traffic to the Port of Baltimore/Washington region from construction through operations would create almost 1,000 jobs, $49 million in wages during construction, $48million annually during operations and more than $400million in GDP.