Ports of Indiana celebrates “Maritime Day” with call to support U.S. infrastructure

INDIANAPOLIS (May 22, 2017)

The Ports of Indiana is celebrating “National Maritime Day” by calling on public and private sector leaders to support new investments in U.S. freight transportation infrastructure. Last week, the Ports of Indiana hosted national experts for an “Influencer’s Roundtable” as part of “Infrastructure Week,” May 15-19, and the group identified funding for freight transportation infrastructure as one of the most critical needs for future growth of the U.S. economy.

“National Maritime Day is an important reminder of the critical role that ports, ships, barges and maritime-related businesses play in our economy,” said Rich Cooper, CEO for the Ports of Indiana. “In the U.S., ports support over 23 million jobs and handle more than 2 billion tons of international and domestic cargo per year. Indiana businesses ship over 65 million tons of cargo annually on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan, which contributes $21 billion per year to our state economy. Robust investment in multimodal infrastructure is needed from public and private sectors to keep our economy moving. We hope that Maritime Day also serves as a reminder to support future investments in freight transportation infrastructure.”

National Maritime Day was established by Congress in 1933 to call attention to America’s proud maritime heritage. While ports are one focus of Maritime Day, the Ports of Indiana also notes that America’s ports depend on many different types of infrastructure investments, including funding for highways, bridges, railroads, locks and dams, channel dredging and various multimodal needs. The roundtable discussed a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave the U.S. a D+ ranking for overall infrastructure, stating that 90 percent of America’s locks and dams experienced an unscheduled shutdown during the year, most of the country’s highways are congested and 70,000 bridges are in need of repair.

The Ports of Indiana co-hosted the “Influencer’s Roundtable” with the American Association of Port Authorities to give 20 U.S. transportation, business, academic and government leaders the opportunity to talk frankly about the current state of port and other freight transportation infrastructure and what improvements are needed. The group agreed that Indiana’s new 20-year road-and-bridge funding plan, which will provide $1.2 billion per year, could be used as a national multimodal example for fixing America’s ailing transportation infrastructure. Input about road and bridge needs was received from all 92 Indiana counties. Getting support for upgrading America’s infrastructure, the influencers agreed, will need to take a similar, unified approach.

“Achieving growth and prosperity in the global economy is equal parts competition and collaboration,” said Joe McGuinness, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation. “For all of us to win, we need to focus on embracing partnerships and innovation to fix and enhance our existing infrastructure and build the water, air, rail and road networks needed to support the growth and emerging technologies of the future.”

To illustrate the sensitive state of America’s highway infrastructure, Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, noted that a recent American Transportation Research Institute study concluded that congestion on the U.S. National Highway System is so bad it caused over $63 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2015, equaling 996 million hours of lost productivity.

Waterways infrastructure is in need of urgent funding as well. Dale Heinz, senior division manager at ArcelorMittal Steel in Burns Harbor, Indiana, noted that if the Poe Lock were to catastrophically fail, his steel mill would be out of raw materials in two weeks and forced to shut down idling 4,000 employees. The Poe Lock, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., is part of the Soo Locks, the world’s busiest canal, and is the only one capable of handling the 1,000-foot-long vessels that move millions of tons of iron ore from mines in Minnesota and northern Michigan to steel mills in northwest Indiana.

During the roundtable, John Crowley, executive director for the National Assoc. of Waterfront Employees, noted there is no better time than now for infrastructure needs to be pitched to Washington and seek federal support. Robyn Boerstling, vice president of infrastructure innovation at the National Assoc. of Manufacturers, said it’s a “generational opportunity” to have the President of the United States talking about investing in America’s infrastructure.

“As we celebrate National Maritime Day, it’s important to remember that ports are more than transportation exchange points between water, railroads and trucks – they are economic engines,” said Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper. “Our nation’s ailing infrastructure has to be addressed in order to keep America competitive in today’s global market and when it comes to articulating freight transportation needs, speaking collectively with one voice from all these modes can certainly give balance.”

The roundtable discussion was led by Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper and AAPA President & CEO Kurt Nagle. Participants included Robyn Boerstling, Vice President, National Association of Manufacturers · Lauren Brand, Associate Administrator of Intermodal System Development, U.S. Maritime Administration · Kevin Brinegar, President & CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce · Brian Burton, President & CEO, Indiana Manufacturers Association · John Crowley, Executive Director, National Association of Waterfront Employers · Tom Easterday, Senior Executive Vice President, Subaru of Indiana Automotive · Doug Ellsworth, Senior Asset Management Specialist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers · Blair Garcia, Vice President, U.S. Director-Maritime Division, WSP · Dale Heinz, Senior Division Manager, Primary Operations, ArcelorMittal Steel · Michael Hicks, Economist, Ball State University · David Holt, VP Operations & Business Development, Conexus Indiana · Lee Hutchins, Director – Freight Logistics & Planning, AECOM · Gary Langston, President, Indiana Motor Truck Association · Kevin J. Larkin, Vice President, Alliance Coal · Joe McGuinness, Commissioner, Indiana Dept. of Transportation · Ted McKinney, Director, Indiana Department of Agriculture · Bill McLennan, CEO, Fastport · William S. Stahlman III, Director of Engineering & Construction, America’s Central Port.

About the Ports of Indiana

The Ports of Indiana is a statewide port authority managing three ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. Established in 1961, the Ports of Indiana is a self-funded enterprise dedicated to growing Indiana’s economy by developing and maintaining a world-class port system. Information: portsofindiana.com

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Media Contact: Rich Allen, Ports of Indiana, 317.232.9204, rallen@portsofindiana.com