Senators call for Congress to bolster ports infrastructure in Build Back Better bill

Georgia Ports Authority

U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a group of their colleagues to urge Congressional leadership to provide at least $2.5 billion in funding for port congestion through the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) in the Build Back Better infrastructure bill.

In a Sept. 8 letter to House and Senate leadership, the group said increased congestion caused by COVID-19 and a surge in e-commerce necessitated modernization of the country’s ports.

“We write to urge your support for addressing port congestion through funding the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). We ask that you provide at least $2.5 billion in reconciliation for MARAD’s PIDP to fund port infrastructure needed to improve freight mobility, address port congestion, and improve port competitiveness,” the senators wrote. “Our nation’s ports provide critical connections between waterways, highways, pipelines, and railroads.”

The group said 41 vessels are anchored outside of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as of August 26, waiting for spaces to dock. This year, the Port of Los Angeles became the first port in the Western Hemisphere to handle 10 million containers in a calendar year, handling 1 million containers in the month of May alone, a record. Ports in Washington state and Michigan are also seeing increases, the group said.

Waterborne vessels moved over $1.7 trillion in freight in 2019, the group said. Cargo activities on U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes account for 26 percent of the U.S. economy, generating nearly $5.4 trillion in total economic activity and more than $378 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2018. Additionally, ports generate more than 30.7 million jobs, the group said.

“Investments to modernize ports so they can handle bigger ships and address congestion at ports is critical to the American economy,” the senators continued. “By 2037, the United States is projected to export more than 52 million shipping containers through U.S. seaports each year. Further, by 2045 port infrastructure investments could produce economy-wide returns of between $2 and $3 per every $1 spent, after adjusting for inflation.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).