Last week I announced the 18 corridors, 8 projects, and 6 initiatives designated as part of our new America's Marine Highway program. This program seeks to move some of our nation's cargo and passenger traffic--particularly in areas where there are known bottlenecks--from roadways to waterways.
Making better use of our rivers and coastal routes offers an intelligent way to relieve some of the biggest challenges we face in transportation--roadway congestion, climate change, fossil fuel energy use, and soaring road maintenance costs. There is no better time for us to improve the use of our rivers and coasts for transportation.
Since we made the announcement, shippers and ports have responded very positively. Port Canaveral CEO J. Stanley Payne called it, "The welcome next step in short sea shipping here at the port."
Port of Green Bay manager Dean Haen sees last week's announcement as a terrific moment for Green Bay:
"It raises awareness that we are a mode of transportation. The more awareness we create, the more opportunity that will exist for us, and the more we grow and create jobs. The simplicity, and low cost, of marine will come back."
Years from now this program will be recognized as one of the Obama Administration's transportation game-changers. Because, if you read the Maritime Administration's descriptions of each corridor, you'll notice that every single Marine Highway parallels a roadway that punishes freight drivers with brutal truck bottlenecks.
As Maritime Administrator David Matsuda said, "These projects will help make better use of America’s marine resources by reducing costly gridlock, improving the environment, and putting skilled mariners and shipbuilders to work.”
Port of Brownsville Director of Trade Development Steve Tyndal agrees that the job-creation potential is significant. He sees Brownsville's cross-Gulf link to Florida's Port Manatee as an opportunity to save both communities:
“I know that both Brownsville and Manatee are suffering greatly from the effects of the recession in terms of unemployment and economic stress. This to me seems to be a reasonable and a long-term way of providing the two communities ways to enhance the assets that they have to create better and more higher paying jobs.”
Lower maintenance costs, lower congestion, lower environmental footprint, and new jobs. That sounds like a winning combination to me, and I look forward to seeing these corridors develop.