By Hector L. Rivero, President & CEO, Texas Chemical Council and the Association of Chemical Industry of Texas.
The need for Texas Port Transportation Corridors is critical for chemical industry economic success. These port corridors will ensure a safe and efficient route for industries near our Texas ports to transport container shipments for export to their customers. Port Transportation Corridors will make Texas more competitive with ports around the world by utilizing special “heavy haul” corridors requiring state permits that allow manufacturers to safely transport full container shipments to nearby ports.
Safe routes would be determined by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to ensure that manufacturers have a safe and cost effective means to ship their products to their customers and to help relieve congestion on roadways around our ports. Further, creating port transportation corridors will promote future economic development in port regions across the state.
A recent headline proclaimed that the greater Houston area is “preparing for a plastics and chemicals export boom,” with the Port of Houston evolving as the largest United States port that ships more products overseas than it imports. And it is the region’s chemicals, plastics and fuels industries that have made the region an increasingly bigger player in the global economy.
The U.S. shale economy has led to a manufacturing renaissance for our industry that has attracted significant investment, jobs and tax-base to our state. The U.S. chemical industry has announced nearly $150 Billion in new projects and expansions across the country, and Texas accounts for about 1/3 of that investment. There are 84 announced Texas projects with nearly $50 Billion in new investment. These new projects will create more than 150,000 new jobs for Texans and generate $1.8 Billion in state tax revenue.
With more than 80 new projects along the Texas gulf coast, the chemical industry is poised for major manufacturing exports beginning in 2017. Among the major investments are numerous polyethylene (PE) projects. These major polyethylene expansions will result in 10.5 billion pounds of new PE production that will need to be shipped to markets around the globe. Most of the PE expansions have been under construction for several years, and are expected to be operational beginning in 2017. Texas needs to ensure that we have transportation corridors near our Texas ports to accommodate the safe and efficient transport of full container shipments to be competitive with other U.S. ports.
The new polyethylene production will result in over 250,000 new container shipments each year, which translates to 600 truckloads every single day. Port transportation corridors will help ease congestion on roadways near the port and provide improved efficiency for manufacturers to get their product to customers. Additionally, Texas port transportation corridors will let the world know that Texas is open for business and provide an incentive for future investment projects near our Texas ports to capitalize on improved transportation efficiency for exporters.
The Port of Houston is the only major U.S. Port that does not have a transportation corridor for area manufacturers to get fully loaded containers directly to the port. Other Texas ports have heavy haul corridors that are competitive with other major U.S. Ports. However, most of the Texas polyethylene expansion projects are within 75 miles of the Port of Houston. In order for these projects to remain globally competitive, we must have Texas Port Transportation Corridors.
Heavy haul corridors are commonly designated by states to allow for the transport of heavier loads to ports. Transporters are required to have a special permit and can only use designated routes determined by the state to be safe. States can also require special equipment for these permits. For example, larger six axle trailers can provide superior weight distribution on roadways and better braking capability for drivers. Additionally, states can place restrictions on when special permit holders can operate on these corridors and can restrict operation during inclement weather.
Now more than ever, having adequate, reliable and well-maintained transportation infrastructure on our roadways, railways and ports is vital to keep up with our economic growth. Texas ports are preparing for the expected surge in exports as new plastics and petrochemical plants come online over the next several years. The time is right for Texas port transportation corridors, and the Texas Chemical Council will continue to work with policymakers at all levels of government to remove barriers to economic growth and keep our industry globally competitive.
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