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Lawmakers focus on Texas ports, starting in Houston

May 10, 2016

Houston Chronicle
April 12, 2016

As trade grows through the Port of Houston, the city’s ability to attract more cargo and keep its top ranking hinges on the infrastructure that keeps goods moving.

The opening of the Panama Canal’s wider lane this summer and an anticipated boom in plastic production along the Houston Ship Channel will mean not just bigger ships steaming in, but also more trucks pounding the pavement and higher demand on the railroads.

Sen. Brandon Creighton at Port of Houston

Port of Houston Authority officials aim to make the city the distribution hub for the central U.S., from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. That means not just keeping the channel dredged and docks sturdy, but maintaining the roads and rail that carry lumber, steel, vegetables and shoes from around the world to towns and cities around the region.

“All of that is synchronized like music,” said state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who is chairing a new select committee to look at Texas ports’ needs and economic impact. On Tuesday he met with Port Authority and other local officials and toured the Bayport container terminal to learn about the Port of Houston.

“The biggest issues I think from the outset are gathering knowledge and fact-finding on: Do our port infrastructure and assets have what they need to keep up with demand?” he said. “With growth comes more and more demand on our infrastructure.”

The Panama Canal expansion and anticipated growth in container trade have called more attention to keeping Texas competitive. The state’s ports are critical in Texas’ role as the nation’s top exporter and energy center, particularly the Port of Houston, the largest in the country by tonnage.

Houston’s port handled 165.5 million tons of cargo last year, and the equivalent of more than 2.1 million 20-foot-long containers. That trade relies on dredging waterways and maintaining the roads and railways that move goods to and from the water.

“We just want to make sure the state government understands how all these pieces fit together and the economic impact,” Creighton said. “Do our roads need taller bridges? Do our waterways need deeper drafts?”

Read the full article here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/State-legislators-focus-on-Texas-ports-starting-7244563.php