Commerce and trade are vital to the development and prosperity of our modern economies.
The use of Texas waterways and roadways is quickly escalating, fueled by the expansion of the Panama Canal, the surge in the state’s population, and the growth of our produce industry.
Generating $270 billion a year in economic activity and $6 billion in state and local taxes per year, Texas ports play a critical role in the state’s transportation system and are key to our economy.
Here in Texas we are blessed with a unique and beautiful stretch of coastline offering our economy and businesses greater access to trade and commerce through our seaports. Similarly, our border ports of entry and bridges offer significant economic benefits as they are essential in facilitating trade with Mexico – Texas’ largest trading partner at $200 billion a year.
Three of our Texas ports rank in the top seven of the largest ports in the nation based on annual tonnage – Houston (2nd), Beaumont (4th), and Corpus Christi (7th). Meanwhile, the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge in the Rio Grande Valley is positioned to become the busiest port of entry for fresh produce in the entire United States this year. Our ports create 1.4 million jobs and generate $82.8 billion in personal income.
While Texas is perfectly positioned to benefit tremendously from the global flourishing of commerce and trade, how the state responds in the coming legislative session is critical to our future economic development. It is imperative that all Texas ports statewide are primed and ready to receive increases in commerce efficiently.
Last month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced the creation of a Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports, a timely announcement of a legislative committee tasked with studying the economic benefit of the Panama Canal expansion to Texas ports and focusing on what our ports must do to remain competitive in this new era. It is an honor to have been appointed to this committee. Having the Port of Corpus Christi, the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, and the Anzalduas International Bridge in my Senate District, I know first-hand the challenges these ports of entry face on a daily basis as well as the tremendous growth that is occurring and the potential economic development that is just beginning. I look forward to the important work of this committee in the coming months and to craft recommendations to ensure our state prospers.
There is no doubt that the Texas Legislature is committed to investing in our ports and border infrastructure to enhance safety, to reduce wait times, and to ensure the movement of people and goods are more efficient and secure. Last legislative session, two separate budget riders were added to the Transportation bill pattern of the state budget for 2016-17 to fund more projects for ports and border infrastructure.
I successfully authored and placed Rider 11(b) in the state budget to ensure key funding. This rider, also known as the Border Infrastructure Rider, directs TxDOT to allocate funds for improvements designated to facilitate traffic and improve the efficiency of border inspection and security processes at land ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. Last month, TxDOT took action on this rider and allocated $60 million in funding. Also Rider 48, which I supported, allocated $20 million in funding for port capital improvement projects. Specifically, in my Senate District, the Port of Corpus Christi will receive $3.3 million as one of the nine ports selected statewide by the Port Authority Advisory Committee to be funded this year.
It is because of this commitment that we must do more. We must continue to prepare for growth and to increase funding so that more projects may be supported. Dedicating critical investments to both our seaports and land ports is dedicating ourselves to a competitive and profitable economic future for all Texans.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column shows the Port of Corpus Christi, which is in state Senator Juan Hinojosa’s District.