The future of America's ports, the future of American freight
During the past few months, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to visit several of America's ports with both President Obama and Vice President Biden. Yesterday, when Vice President Biden and I visited America's Central Port in Granite City, Illinois, we were both fortunate to be joined by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and--in particular--by a favorite son of Illinois and a favorite of the U.S. Department of Transportation, former Secretary Ray LaHood.
Being joined by former Secretary LaHood at America's Central Port is special because he is one of only a few people who know how good a job I have--in fact, he has said more than once that being Secretary was the best job of his three decades in public service. It's also special because he knows as well as anyone how important America's interior ports are to the future of our nation's economy.
Yesterday, we all had the chance to see America's Central Port, including the construction underway at the new South Harbor. When it’s finished, the project will connect four interstate highways and major rail lines so that businesses can move their goods faster from the factory to the river and then down the river to market.
This is a good week to celebrate this project, which has been boosted by a $14.5 million from our TIGER program, because five years ago this week, during some of the darkest days of the recession, President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, paving the way for DOT's TIGER grants.
The TIGER program has been so popular, in fact, that Congress has extended it each year since. Which means, at DOT, we’ve been able to invest more than $400 million at 33 ports around the country.
And while projects like this have helped our economy to recover over the past few years, it's time to look forward and emphasize that the benefits of these investments will far outlast this administration and the next, and the next. The investments we’ve made at America's Central Port and 32 other ports across America will still be paying dividends when the Great Recession is just a chapter in your grandkids’ economics textbook.
That's a good thing, too, because by 2050, America’s freight network will need to haul 4 billion more tons of international freight each year than we do now. That's roughly the weight of 40,000 Washington Monuments, and much of that extra freight will need to be hauled on our waterways and the railroads that connect to them.
During times of great crisis, like the Great Recession, we have been fortunate to have leaders with the calm and foresight to look boldly ahead. And thankfully, we have now enjoyed quarter after quarter of economic growth and added jobs. But, the freight demands of the future will not pause while we celebrate our economic recovery. Now is the time to continue looking forward, to continue keeping our foot on the accelerator. Now is the time to continue investing in American transportation.