Everett Port director calls for federal investments

Jun 15, 2011

 Everett Port director calls for federal investments

Snohomish County Business Journal

June 15, 2011

The hearing was held by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is the ranking member of the subcommittee and its most senior Democratic member.

“The question we keep asking ourselves, ‘Is the United States prepared to double exports from a seaport and freight rail perspective?' and the answer is no,” Mohr said in prepared remarks.

“We support the administration's National Export Initiative to double U.S. exports over the next five years,” he said. “To accomplish this goal, we will need major investments in our freight transportation system. The time for a passive federal role is behind us. We need the federal government to make the policy changes necessary to ensure that the U.S. marine transportation system is efficient, effective and competitive.”

To enhance the U.S. marine transportation system so it can handle more exports to compete with Canadian ports and the expanded Panama Canal, Mohr said the federal government needs to reform regulations, invest in port and freight rail infrastructure and modify the fee structure of the Harbor Maintenance Tax.

Mohr said the federal government should help streamline permit requirements to expedite the construction of port facilities. In Washington state, he said it can take up to 10 years to build a new terminal facility and up to 25 years to deepen a shipping channel. These delays result in higher costs to U.S. exporters and lost cargo opportunities to foreign competion.

The federal government must continue to invest in port infrastructure, he said. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program of 2009 was the first federal grant program that allowed ports to propose waterside projects for funding consideration. The program was so popular that the U.S. Department of Transportation received $1.6 billion of grant requests from ports in the first round. Mohr said port infrastructure funding should be included in the upcoming six-year federal surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The federal government should change the current harbor maintenance tax system, Mohr said. In 1986, Congress enacted the harbor maintenance tax. It taxes the value of ocean-going cargo to pay for maintenance of federal maritime shipping channels, harbors and related structures. He said the tax should be applied to all U.S.-bound cargo regardless of shipping method and all the funds collected through the tax need to be spent on harbor maintenance.

Mohr said the Port of Everett supports a high-speed rail corridor east to increase the speed at which U.S. manufacturers and farmers can export their products overseas.

Larsen has expressed his commitment to promoting and protecting the local maritime industry, which is a central part of the economy of the 2nd District.

“As executive director of the Port of Everett, John knows firsthand how critical exports are to our economic recovery and job creation efforts in the Pacific Northwest,” Larsen said.

Washington state ports are in intense competition with British Columbia ports, which have formed a strong partnership with the Canadian government. In 2006, Canada started its Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative projects with a commitment to invest nearly $1 billion in port infrastructure projects.

The Canadian government also has invested significantly in the Canadian National Railroad, which gives Canada a high-speed rail corridor directly into the U.S., bypassing U.S. ports and the jobs associated with trade.

Since Canada kicked off its Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, Mohr said, "Most of the growth in Pacific Northwest containerized cargo has been through Canadian ports."