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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

July 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Obama to West Coast ports: Drop dead?

Here’s something to bring up to the president when he’s in Seattle tonight. Last week, the administration, as part of its “We Can’t Wait” initiative, issued an executive order to speed infrastructure improvements at five East Coast ports. Among them: An expedited study of deepening the channel at the Port of Charleston; expediting permitting to raise the Bayonne Bridge and deepening the channels at the Port of New York and New Jersey; accelerating the timeline to deepen the channels at Savannah and Miami, and a variety of steps to speed permitting and reviews to modernize the Port of Jacksonville.

As you can see, none of these projects are on the West Coast, much less in the Puget Sound. All these competing ports on the right coast stand to benefit from the wider Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed as early as 2014. It will allow the transit of wider container ships from Asia direct to ports on the East Coast. Much of this traffic has gone through West Coast ports.

Although the Southeast is dominated by small-government politicians, their congressional delegations have been pushing hard, and effectively, for the federal government to spend on expanding harbors in Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville and Miami to accommodate more and bigger ships. You can bet they’ll be leading the effort to steer federal funds to improve the competitiveness of their ports.

Meanwhile, Puget Sound ports are losing overall container market share and have infrastructure needs that aren’t being met. Standing still already isn’t an option with the competition from Prince Rupert and the aggressive expansions planned in LA and Long Beach. But in this case, the federal government is picking winners beyond the things we can’t control, e.g. the wider Panama Canal.

At least the proposed arena can’t be blamed for this one.

And Don’t Miss: Beware territorial tax proposals || Clyde Prestowitz/Foreign Policy

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Emmert and Penn State

He gave more than a wrist slap

Turn him on the banks

Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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