While Port of Galveston officials ponder where to find a staggering $250 million needed to update dilapidated facilities at the public docks, national maritime experts say the island is not alone.

American ports will need about $66 billion for infrastructure repairs and investments over the next 10 years, according to a study by the American Association of Port Authorities.

Some of the proposed updates include a $3.3 billion crossing at the Port of Virginia, an $11 billion rail tunnel at the ports of New York and New Jersey, and a $750 million modernization project at the Port of Alaska, among others, according to the study.

“To get these things, there needs to be a federal component and investment,” said John Young, director of freight and surface transportation policy for the American Association of Port Authorities.

Port of Galveston officials have long been hamstrung in attempts to fix infrastructure problems because the port only brings in small profits each year.

The port is projected to bring in only about $250,000 in net income in 2018, according to documents.

Port officials are projecting operating revenues of about $37.4 million in 2018 against operating expenditures of $37.2 million, records show.

While funding is likewise an issue for ports across the nation, the federal component remains the biggest obstacle for infrastructure woes, said Rodger Rees, the island’s new port director.

“A lot of those projects in the early days involved federal funding,” Rees said. “But that federal funding over the last decade is less and less every year. They’re pushing more of the cost of infrastructure out to state and local governments.”

National officials are forced to pass on the costs because most of their budget is now spent dealing with costly dredging operations, Rees said.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2017 fiscal budget includes $2.7 billion for operation and maintenance of the nation’s waterways, much of that going toward dredging, records show.

Those tasked with maintaining the channels are further hampered because much of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, a federal fee charged to shippers who pass through U.S. ports, is diverted to other uses, said Joan Mileski, the head of the maritime administration department at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Texas ports have received less than 25 percent of the revenue collected in the state, Mileski said.

State budgets aren’t equipped to handle the size of port infrastructure projects, Rees said.

“If you look at the state budget, it’s so little compared to how big of a problem this is,” Rees said. “You’re talking $20 million to $30 million per year. That’s good — all money helps — but the problem is in the billions in Texas alone.”

Maritime officials with the American Association of Port Authorities are hopeful that help may be on the horizon, Young said.

“Congress will take up infrastructure and figure out how they want to fund it and if they will fund it,” Young said.

President Donald Trump in his first State of the Union address called on Congress to consider a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, with some of that money set aside for port infrastructure.

“That’s why we laid out the $66 billion in infrastructure needs,” Young said.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com


(2) comments

PD Hyatt

One day our US government is not going to be able to continue to help those who refuse to help themselves.... When are states, cities, counties and now ports going to realize that THEY need to put money aside to repair their own stuff.... This is what happens when people refuse to take care of what they use everyday.... The port makes money off of the ships that they service. Either charge what it takes to take care of things or eventually the rot will get to the point that the ships will no longer come to this port....

Charlotte O'rourke

I agree that all public entities should charge appropriate fees comparable to their competitors, and be fiscally conservative with the public’s money to ensure ongoing repair and maintenance. The port can do better. But even being conservative with funds would not be enough for ANY port’s infrastructure needs without financial help from the state and federal government as the costs are too great. Shipping fees that are too high compared to other ports would force business elsewhere.

In my opinion, the federal government can’t provide the necessary financial assistance to U.S. cities, states, and ports for aging infrastructure because it is too busy nation building in other parts of the world. I am waiting to see AMERICA FIRST infrastructure improvements for old outdated infrastructure in OUR COUNTRY.


Every group has a different number on the costs of these wars and rebuilding of other countries, but all list the amount in the trillions of dollars.

“President Donald Trump in his first State of the Union address called on Congress to consider a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, with some of that money set aside for port infrastructure.”

I agree with you on this one, Mr. President, and I hope the new port director effectively lobbies for the Port of Galveston’s share. After Ike, the port did not receive one penny of CDBG funds allocated to recovery. Let’s not let that happen again. The port is too important to our economy.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.