Thu, Dec 18, 2014 21:13
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TxDOT 'getting out ahead' of Panama Canal expansion

Texas Business reports:  AUSTIN—With the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal, Texas is in a unique position and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will play a defining role in ensuring Texas is well-positioned to capitalize on this economic opportunity.

To prepare for the expansion, TxDOT is creating a Panama Canal Stakeholder Working Group comprised of a wide variety of entities with an interest in the expansion of the canal and is seeking input from them on promoting port activities in state transportation planning, tackling highway bottlenecks - bridges and links to terminals, and supporting rail investment, especially for exports.

A 2011 Cambridge Systematics study concluded the expansion will allow demand for import and export shipments via Western U.S. Coast ports to remain substantial in coming years, though those ports face physical and other limited constraints to expansion.

This means constraints on West Coast ports could result in more cargo being shipped through Texas ports.

The group will produce a report by year's end assessing the state's readiness to maximize any opportunities the Canal's expansion might bring.

TxDOT invited entities from the port, agriculture, trucking, manufacturing, government, oil and gas, and rail industries to be a part of the group. Those confirmed include representatives from:  Texas Association of Manufacturers, Texas Port Association, Texas Motor Transportation Association, Texas Farm Bureau, Economic Development and Tourism Division of the Governor's Office, Port of Houston Authority and the Texas Economic Development Council.

“Bringing together a broad group of experts involved in freight movement in Texas will allow us to develop a comprehensive master plan that addresses connectivity with our ports and potential expansion of export opportunities,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows in a prepared statement. “This Stakeholder Group will focus on enhancing and facilitating the flow of goods through and on our system, which does not stop at our ports but continues through our major corridors such as I-35 and I-69.”

Plans are for the group to meet approximately once monthly for the next six months.