Report: U.S. ports need substantial infrastructure improvements
The American Society of Civil Engineers today (March 19, 2013) released its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s infrastructure, including U.S. ports and inland waterway systems.
Every 4 years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure that depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card by assigning letter grades to each type of infrastructure. The overall national grade was a D+. America needs to spend $3.4 trillion on its infrastructure by 2020, the report concludes.
U.S. ports received a grade of C from the ASCE because considerable investment is necessary to continue to compete globally, including improved port maintenance, modernization, and expansion. This was the first time ports were included in the ASCE’s report.
“The Port of Redwood City is pleased that ASCE included seaports for the first time in its critical infrastructure Report Card,” said Port Commission Chairman Dick Dodge. “The inclusion of seaports in this infrastructure analysis is recognition of the importance of ports, and the connections to them, and to our nation’s freight transportation system.”
In the ASCE’s inaugural assessment, it was found that port authorities have planned over $46 billion in capital improvements from now through 2016. While ports have made investments to improve terminal infrastructure, their connections to roads, rail, and water channels have suffered from inadequate federal funding. The report also found that more dredging will be necessary to take advantage of higher trade capacity once the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015.
“The report card reiterates what other national and international studies have concluded the neglected state of our nation’s port related transportation infrastructure,” added Dodge, “including recent reports from the World Economic Forum, Building America’s Future and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to name a few.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, maintaining existing levels of delay will cost more than $13 billion by 2020, while current funding levels are expected to be $7 billion during this period. The need for capital investments and improvements is strong enough that many barge operators support increasing their fuel tax to pay for them. The periods of time it takes for approval processes also contributes to increased costs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that over 95 percent of overseas trade produced or consumed by the U.S. moves through our ports and the nation’s inland waterways and rivers carry the equivalent of approximately 51 million truck trips each year.
- While port terminal facilities themselves seem to have benefited from significant new investment and improvements, the connections to the ports – the navigation channels leading to the docks as well as the landside connections – need to be brought to modern standards. The terminals require navigable waterway maintenance and dredging, along with rail and highway connector improvements to function optimally. Without these corresponding improvements, the ports will see limited benefits in terms of moving additional goods.
- Our ports serve as a critical entry point for a majority of imports, and allow U.S. businesses to access global markets and to compete in a global economy.
- Approximately 76 % of America’s international exports accessed global markets by water in 2010, valued at over $460 billion.
- Approximately 70 % (by tonnage) of U.S. imports arrived to the U.S. by water in 2010, valued at over $940 billion
- The United States has over 300 commercial harbors, through which pass 2.3 billion tons of cargo a year, and over 600 smaller harbors. The system accommodates over 16,800 annual commercial vessel calls.