Suddenly, it seems, shortages, delays and disruptions have become part of our daily lingo. Of course the reality is that our infrastructure and capacity issues have long needed attention. The federal infrastructure package has allocated $17 billion for port infrastructure—and experts say work can’t start soon enough given the challenges that need to be tackled. In fact, previous funding commitments are already at work toward improving ports around the country.
Bridge and Depth Limitations?
Overall, the nation’s infrastructure system earned a C-score from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)—but, ports in some areas are faring even worse. For example, South Carolina Ports are in urgent need of attention, with a rating of D+. Industry, state and federal money has already been committed, with the hope that more federal support will come via the infrastructure effort. As the ASCE notes:
S.C. Ports is a top-10 container port in the United States, responsible for 1-in-10 South Carolina jobs and generating more than $63 billion in economic output for the state. As the Southeastern economy continues to grow exponentially, S.C. Ports has seen cargo volumes double in the past 10 years. Ocean carriers are deploying larger vessels to keep up with demand, which requires deeper harbors and increased port capacity. The South Carolina Ports Authority, the state of South Carolina, federal government and industry partners are continuously investing in the port facilities with $2.6 billion invested through the fiscal year 2022. The $2.6 billion investment will double container capacity upon final buildout of the new High K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal in Charleston and deepen the harbor to 52 feet so that mega container ships may access terminals any time, regardless of tides.
According to Reuters , many U.S. ports are in dire need of attention, attributable in part to “bridge or depth limitations that restrict their ability to receive larger vessels, while a surge of cargo is straining land operations at some ports.” That’s why improvements at the Baltimore port have been critical—it can handle larger container ships, helping to alleviate congestion in other ports. With the infrastructure package winding its way toward implementation, local leaders are busy green-lighting efforts that have been previously funded, through state, federal, and industry commitments. For example,NJ Biz reports that in Southern New Jersey:
Executives at the Port of Salem said a $9 million federal grant will be used to expand the terminal’s vessel capacity and rail connectivity at a time when global shipping delays are stretching supply chains already weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic and as the region plans for an expanding offshore wind power sector. “This is another example of the broad support for the ongoing development of South Jersey’s marine terminals to be the premiere logistical, manufacturing and support center for a job-rich, carbon-free, Green Economy growing along our coast … as well as our general cargo mission,” said Andrew Saporito, the CEO of the South Jersey Port Corp….
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At The Dock—Now What?
Investment in port infrastructure alone won’t of course solve all our delivery chain issues. Bridges, tunnels, roads and rails are overdue for attention too. The number of bridges the American Road and Transportation Builder’s Association says are in need of replacement is estimated at 79,500! The new federal infrastructure package aims to propel progress with allocations including $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail improvements; $65 billion for broadband improvements; $65 billion to rebuild the electrical grid;; $39 billion to modernize public transit; and, $25 billion for airports
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