President Renews Call to Invest in America’s Ports and Infrastructure
On November 8th, President Obama spoke from the Port of New Orleans, one of the nation’s largest ports, where he reiterated his call to invest in rebuilding America’s infrastructure, including strategic ports along the Mississippi River such as the Port of New Orleans, which support U.S. commerce and trade.
Despite making significant progress under the President’s leadership, there is still much more work to be done across the country to improve our nation’s infrastructure. That’s why the President continues to call for greater investments. Rebuilding our roads, bridges and ports will not only put Americans back to work, but also help to expand trade, keep American businesses competitive and create even more jobs here at home.
- Ports like the one in New Orleans and around the Mississippi River Valley play a central role in the American economy by facilitating global trade and exports. The Port of New Orleans not only creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region but helps to drive American competiveness across the country.
- That’s why the Obama Administration has invested significant resources into New Orleans, including funds to upgrade port facilities, to provide more efficient loading and storage, and to help make the transport of goods at the Port safer, cheaper and more sustainable.
- The President’s support for the Port of New Orleans has helped grow the region’s exports significantly; since 2009, exports moving through the New Orleans region have increased 140%, including a 20% increase in the last year alone.
- But more remains to be done, and the President has proposed increasing investments in infrastructure and continuing to promote a broad trade agenda. These proposals would ensure that the Port of New Orleans and other ports like it continue to grow.
President Obama Understands that America’s Ports Are Key to Our Competitiveness
- Ports like the one in New Orleans play a central role in the American economy in part by facilitating global trade and exports. Nearly 80 percent of the volume of international trade passes through our nation’s ports, which support more than 13 million jobs nationwide.
- In fact, the Port of New Orleans and sister ports around the Mississippi River Valley are among the largest and more strategically important ports in the U.S. The port system in New Orleans, South Louisiana, and along the Mississippi River represent the largest bulk cargo port area in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest port systems by volume of trade in the world. The U.S. Maritime Administration estimates the value of foreign trade through its New Orleans District, which includes the Mississippi River Valley ports, at $85 billion to $154 billion annually. In 2012, total tonnage along the Lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico was 128.6 million tons, up 10 percent compared to 2011. And, about 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are shipped through the Mississippi River.
The Obama Administration Has Made Significant Investments in America’s Infrastructure – Including the Port of New Orleans and Other Key Ports in the U.S.
- Since the President took office, America has begun the hard work of rebuilding our infrastructure, including key investments in our nation’s ports and waterways. Since President Obama took office, American workers have improved over 350,000 miles of U.S. roads and repaired or replaced over 20,000 bridges. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was the most significant transportation public works program since the New Deal, providing $48 billion to more than 15,000 projects across the country.
- The President also launched a government-wide initiative to improve the efficiency of Federal review and permitting of infrastructure projects through an Executive Order (EO) in March 2012 [EU3], which has added more transparency, accountability, and certainty into the review and permitting process. Since signing this EO, agencies have expedited the review and permitting of 51 major projects, including bridges, transit projects, railways, ports and waterways, roads, and renewable energy projects. Through the implementation of the President’s Executive Order, Federal agencies have also identified and institutionalized a set of best practices for efficient review and permitting, which range from expanding information technology (IT) tools to strategies for improving collaboration, such as having multiple agencies review a project at the same time, instead of consecutively.
- The President also established a Task Force on Ports in 2012 to develop a Federal strategy for future port and related infrastructure investments to make sure that ports like the Port of New Orleans get the attention that they need.
- Later this month, the Vice President will lead a delegation of U.S. officials on a tour of the Panama Canal expansion project, highlighting the global economic implications of investing in transportation infrastructure here at home. Leading up to the trip, the Vice President visited ports in Baltimore, MD; Savannah, GA; and Charleston, SC; as well as a major rail terminal near Toledo, OH, that connects East Coast ports with manufacturing facilities throughout the Midwest.
- The President has committed significant resources to maintaining and upgrading the facilities around the Port of New Orleans.
- Providing $26 million in TIGER grants to support the Port of New Orleans: In 2011, the Department of Transportation provided the Port of New Orleans with a $16 million TIGER grant to help support a larger $26 million project to rebuild a rail yard at the Louisiana Avenue terminal. This project will realign the tracks to provide for more efficient loading, unloading, and storage, making the transport of goods – including ultra-heavy project cargoes – safer, cheaper, and more sustainable.
- Providing more than $230 million of resources to the Mississippi River Valley to support flood and drought related dredging: As part of the Administration’s efforts to help the Mississippi River valley recover from recent flooding and droughts that can impede travel throughout the region, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has provided more than $150 million on flood-related dredging and more than $80 million for drought-related dredging and rock blasting throughout the Mississippi River valley since 2011.
The President’s Investments in the Port of New Orleans Have Helped Grow Exports from the Region and Supported His National Export Initiative
- The Obama administration’s investments in the Port of New Orleans have helped New Orleans expand its export base significantly, supporting the region’s workforce and helping businesses up and down the Mississippi River Valley. Last year, more than 62 million tons of goods – like corn, wheat and coal – moved through the Port of New Orleans. Since 2009, exports moving through the New Orleans region have increased 140%, including a 20% increase in the last year alone. This makes New Orleans one of the fastest growing metro regions for exports in the country. And, because of these investments to more efficiently move cargo, New Orleans is now more able to take advantage of major opportunities like the expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed in 2015.
- The strength of the export market in the Port of New Orleans has played a role in supporting the President’s broader export initiatives. President Obama believes that exports are central to our national economy and has made increasing exports a major focus for his administration. Through his National Export Initiative, President Obama has pushed to develop new trade agreements and encouraged overseas firms to buy American products. These efforts have helped grow exports across the country. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. exports have grown over 50% since President Obama took office. Last year, every $1 billion in exports supported nearly 5,000 jobs in the United States – including jobs at the Port of New Orleans.
The President’s Has a Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs and Production by Rebuilding Our Infrastructure
- Despite progress made, there is still much more to be done across the country to improve our nation’s infrastructure and support commerce and trade.
- By most measures, the United States is still investing less in infrastructure than other nations. We spend approximately 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, a 50 percent decline from 1960 and far less than countries like China. It is no coincidence that U.S. ports like New Orleans are facing new challenges and increased competition from our neighbors.
- Ports, like other parts of the national infrastructure system, need greater attention and investments. Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave ports a C rating. Our ports are not keeping up with the growing volume of imports and exports nor with the kinds and sizes of ships that carry global trade.
- The President has already laid out a robust plan to put Americans back to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure: The President has proposed greater investments in the nation’s infrastructure, including immediate investments with a “Fix-it-First” focus.
- The President’s plan would invest $50 billion immediately in our nation’s infrastructure, with an emphasis on reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance.
- The President has also proposed a “Rebuild America Partnership” to leverage private sector investment. Combined with his plan for immediate investments, President Obama has called for new efforts to leverage private funds to rebuild our infrastructure. The President has proposed a National Infrastructure Bank, expanding the successful TIFIA program and changes to tax rules to encourage greater private investment. The President’s new America Fast Forward (AFF) bonds program would build upon and expand a successful program created in the Recovery Act to attract private capital for infrastructure investments.
The President has also worked to attract more foreign direct investment into the United States. This month, for example, the President hosted the SelectUSA Summit, bringing together leaders from around the world to demonstrate the benefits of investing in American companies and American infrastructure.