• Infrastructure Development in Texas Maritime Ports: Funding Challenges
  • November 15, 2016
  • Law Firm: The Posey Law Firm P.C. - Austin Office
  • Texas is second in the nation for waterborne commerce, and Texas ports are a critical part of the national and international economy. The Texas Maritime Ports have strategic importance for military readiness during times of national emergency. The economic impact of the Maritime Ports are significant, with TxDOT reporting a total economic value of Texas seaports as $287.1 billion, with local and state tax revenue of 6.5 billion in 2011.

    The issues gaining attention and concern from state officials and representatives is the funding for needed maintenance and repair, as well as infrastructure development both in the ports and for the bridges, roads, and rails connecting the ports to the rest of Texas. There are several issues driving the urgency of these considerations, including the widening of the Panama Canal.

    The expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger cargo ships, opened in April 2016, means the Gulf and East Coast ports have an opportunity, and stakeholders and investment partners are rushing to complete port infrastructure expansion to take advantage of the new market share.

    Besides the changes needed to accommodate the new vessels, such as dredging deeper canals, opportunities exist for updating warehouses, roads, and rail systems to take advantage of the opportunity provided by this increased traffic. But, according to Texas lobbyist and attorney Jake Posey, funding may prove to be a problem.

    Texas A&M Transportation Institute undertook a study of state funding practices for maritime port improvements. Funding can be from direct or indirect funds; at this time Texas is using general revenue funding only for infrastructure development and port maintenance.

    Overview of Texas Ports and Waterways, a comprehensive report by the Texas DOT, was presented to the Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports in May, 2016.

    The 84th Legislature included Rider 48 in the General Appropriations Act, authorizing up to $20 million from the Texas Mobility Fund for funding for port capital improvement projects. As Texas lobbyist and attorney Jake Posey noted, Nine projects have been approved for this funding however, most of these are road widening and repair for roads leading from the ports.

    Lt. Governor Dan Patrick charged senators to prepare to address transportation infrastructure at Texas maritime ports in next year's legislative session.