The Obama administration, as part of its effort to double U.S. exports, is investing millions of dollars in the maritime and intermodal freight transportation industries, a top Maritime Administration executive said.
Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, deputy maritime administrator, told the California Maritime Leadership Symposium in Sacramento Wednesday that state and local agencies must join this effort if they want their regions to benefit from the federal government’s programs.
“This administration, for the first time, put the marine transportation system on an equal footing with other transportation modes,” Jaenichen said.
He cited four TIGER grant programs in President Obama’s first term that resulted in $350 million of appropriations for port projects. While there will be no more TIGER grant programs, assistance is still available in the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and Rail Infrastructure Financing programs, Jaenichen said.
The new MAP-21 program (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) to develop a national freight transportation infrastructure plan, while geared primarily for overland transportation, will also offer opportunities for the port and maritime industries to receive assistance, he said.
State and local authorities must do their part to help the federal government prioritize infrastructure projects. Jaenichen noted there are 37 states with ports or navigable waterways, but only eight of those states have a maritime coordinator in their transportation agencies.
The nation’s transportation infrastructure continues to lag in accommodating the growth in freight volumes. According to a “Failure to Act” report released last year by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. economy will suffer a loss of 178,000 jobs and $4 trillion in economic growth if the nation’s infrastructure needs are not addressed.
Jaenichen said there is a pressing need to move forward with a national freight transportation plan under MAP-21. The effort must include an increase in spending on freight infrastructure, repair of existing infrastructure, stepping up channel dredging, expanding intermodal connectors and achieving a balance between infrastructure development and environmental needs.
States that are successful in attracting federal money must demonstrate good management of funds under existing assistance programs, and they must prioritize their needs and show positive benefit-to-cost potential for future grants, he said.