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The federal government’s continuing failure to modernize its aging waterways infrastructure could have a devastating impact on America’s competitiveness and the nation’s overall economic health.

That was the message Jerry Bridges, chairman of the board of the American Association of Port Authorities, delivered to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on September 20.

Bridges, who also serves as executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, stressed that port modernization is essential to a fully functioning modern economy.

As he told the committee, ““Having been a port director at major ports on both the East and West Coasts, I can unequivocally assure you that dredging impacts the bottom line at every port, on the dock, at the terminals and in the yard.  It also directly impacts the transportation savings we are able to create for all who depend on the port and the federal channels that covers over 90 percent of our world trade.”

The bottom line? “Dredging directly equates to jobs, income and international competitiveness.”

According to Marine Link, Bridges contrasted the seaports and their private sector partners’ willingness to invest $46 billion over the next five years in infrastructure development with the failure of the federal government “to uphold its end of the partnership in sharing projects costs to finance new infrastructure and to fund channel improvement projects.”

Bridges referred to a report released earlier that week from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Entitled “Failure To Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Airport, Inland Waterways and Marine Ports Infrastructure,” it found that the government’s failure to update the nation’s aging infrastructure for marine ports, inland waterways and airports threatens more than one million U.S. jobs.”

In other words, unless Congress invests adequate monies in port modernization, the United States will become less competitive in the global marketplace.

Bridges called on Congress to enact legislation, such as the Water Resources Development Act as well as proper usage of Harbor Maintenance Tax funds, to upgrade America’s waterways and ports to keep them competitive in the international marketplace.