Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Obama administration is committed to helping U.S. marine ports improve their facilities, especially since the 2014 opening of larger Panama Canal locks will put more pressure on those ports.
“We’ve made investments and we’ve enhanced our ports and we will continue to do that, because they’ve become real economic engines for jobs,” he said in the latest of his “On the Go” Web video chats.
His remarks come as the Department of Transportation is taking applications for transportation construction projects competing for $527 million in third-year TIGER grants. And President Obama in his new jobs plan is seeking $60 billion in transportation project spending and to capitalize a federal infrastructure bank to issue loans and financing guarantees to private and public entities.
LaHood in his video responded to questions from readers of The Infrastructurist, an online report about project investments and policies that affect them. A questioner, who identified himself on that site as an intern at the Port of San Diego, asked why the government is not “promoting a national ports system that will create high-paying jobs” and help the U.S. compete in a global economy.
“We, we are,” LaHood said. The DOT has held two “port summits” since he became secretary in 2009, he said, the first in San Diego and the other in Chicago, to gather port directors from across the nation and discuss their issues. LaHood has also visited various ports himself.
“We’ve tried to say to our friends in the port industry: You are an integral part of an overall transportation system for America.”
And he said as Panama opens larger locks, “we know that port activity will really be stepped up, and we know that ports will become even more important when there is more access through the Panama Canal.”
LaHood said the DOT has spent money already “to fund ports, to fund roads that lead in and out of ports or fund rail lines that lead in and out of ports, to relieve congestion. We know that enhancing our ports (will) enhance, really, economic development in a community and create jobs.”