INDIANAPOLIS: Issues and potential solutions related to under-investments in America’s freight transportation infrastructure will be the focus of discussions at a national freight transportation industry “Influencer’s Roundtable” in Indianapolis on May 18. Hosted by the Ports of Indiana and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and in conjunction with Infrastructure Week , invited “influencers,” including key transportation, business, academic and government leaders, will gather to talk frankly about the current state of America’s transportation infrastructure and what needs to be done to make improvements.
In addition to exploring the critical issues facing U.S. ports over the next two decades, roundtable participants will highlight the significant role that Great Lakes and inland river ports play in the nation’s economy and discuss the increasing strain on the country’s freight transportation infrastructure. Maritime shippers are responsible for moving 600 million tons of cargo per year on America’s inland waterways and 160 million tons on the Great Lakes. “These waterways support hundreds of thousands of cargo-dependent jobs,” said Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper. “Maritime transportation provides critical access to international markets for our Midwest states and offers the most economical, efficient, eco-friendly way to move cargo and the best news is the tremendous capacity available for future growth. Significant funding is needed to maintain and grow our country’s maritime industry, but those investments will generate one of the highest possible returns for any sector in economic growth, jobs, taxes, private investment, transportation savings and public benefits.”
As a case in point, Cooper referenced the dire need to replace the aging Poe Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Part of the Soo Locks, the world’s busiest shipping canal, only the Poe Lock is capable of handling the 1,000-ft.-long vessels that move millions of tons of iron ore from mines in Minnesota and northern Michigan to steel mills in northwest Indiana and the lower Great Lakes. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted that if the 49-year-old lock were knocked out of action for six months, the nation would be plunged into a recession, closing factories and mines, halting auto and appliance production for most of a year, resulting in the loss of 11 million U.S. jobs. “At a time when the new Administration and Congress are focused on creating American jobs, propelling the economy and modernizing infrastructure, the role played by America’s freight transportation system is more critical than ever,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “Ports are a vital part of America’s transportation infrastructure and keystones of a strong economy. However, transportation infrastructure investment has lagged, thus impacting the flow of goods to the farmers, manufacturers, workers and consumers who must have access to the global marketplace.” Nagle further noted that the Indianapolis roundtable “is an opportunity to discuss these important issues and look at solutions to address the lack of investment that prevents America from moving forward.”
Earlier this year, AAPA and its member U.S. ports initiated the America: Keep It Moving campaign. Its purpose is to coordinate actions which inform policymakers, and those who influence policy, about the job-creating power of American ports as the Trump Administration and Congress consider plans for national infrastructure improvements and funding. The health of U.S. port infrastructure affects not only coastal, Great Lakes and river communities, but has a nationwide impact. Port activity supports 23 million American jobs and generates $321 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year. According to a 2015 Martin Associates report, the total value of economic activity related to the nation’s ports is $4.6 trillion, representing 26 percent of the U.S. economy – and it is projected to reach 60 percent by 2030.