Freight News, Sea

Critical Alert: Crumbling Landside Connections Need Immediate Attention

[ September 16, 2015   //   ]

AAPA contends connections at nearly one-third of U.S. ports each need minimum $100 million in upgrades to handle projected 2025 freight volumes.

The port labor dispute may have generated headlines earlier this year, but a bigger threat facing American seaports is the long-term ability of US national seaport gateways to efficiently move cargo. Not only are US seaports threatened by crumbling landside connections, connections at nearly one-third of US ports each need a minimum $100 million in upgrades to handle projected 2025 freight volumes.

At the heart of the issue is the need to prioritize and fund much-needed improvements to road, rail, bridge and tunnel infrastructure that connects America’s seaports to the freight network.

“These ‘first and last mile’ connectors, along with other intermodal projects, are the very definition of critical transportation infrastructure,” says Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). “While ports and their private-sector partners are investing heavily into their facilities as international trade continues to grow, many of these connectors are antiquated, in disrepair, and are creating congestion issues that need to be urgently addressed.”

A report released by Martin Associates, an economic consulting firm in Lancaster, PA, reports that US seaport activity generated more than $321 billion in tax revenue in 2014. That year, the economic impact seaports had on the US economy was $4.6 trillion, or about 26%, compared to 20% in 2007.

The AAPA’s 2015 Freight Report contends that without adequate investment in the connecting infrastructure with America’s ports, the nation’s economy will suffer, the jobs that ports produce and the international competitiveness they sustain will erode, and American workers, families and employers will experience burdensome and costly hardships.

“The fact is that while over a quarter of the U.S. economy is accounted for by port cargo activity, freight connections to our ports are crumbling, putting our economy at risk and reducing America’s competitiveness in global markets,” says Nagle.

AAPA’s report is based on responses from US port authority executives who were asked to identify the freight infrastructure investments needed at and near their ports to keep cargo moving efficiently.

Among key points, the report found that congestion is on the rise at land-side seaport connectors.  More than 38% of respondents said congestion at their ports’ land-side connections has increased between 10 and 25% over the past decade.  More than 18% of respondents said congestion has increased between 25 and 50%, while 15% of respondents indicated increases of between 50 to more than 100%.

Congestion is hurting port productivity. One-third of respondents said congestion at their port’s land-side connectors over the past 10 years has caused port productivity to decline by 25% or more.

Investments are needed to improve road, rail, bridge and tunnel connections.  Nearly a third of survey respondents said a minimum of $100 million or more must be invested in their port’s intermodal connectors through 2025.  Another 18% of respondents said a minimum of $50 million is required, while 30% indicated a requirement of at least $10 million.

The report’s closing remarks: For America’s freight network to operate smoothly and efficiently, it must seamlessly connect commerce centers in every community, state and region.  Investment in America’s port-related freight transportation infrastructure should be an urgent national priority.

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