The port, among others across the nation, need to make big improvements to get ready for those much-larger ships that will now be coming directly through the Panama Canal when it opens after this massive expansion project. If that happens, it could mean a lot of money for our area, and the vice president knows it.
On a gray, overcast day on the Gulf Coast, Vice President Joe Biden effectively called the Port of Houston a ray of sunshine, a gleaming economic engine.
"I wish everyone in Texas and throughout the country could stand here where I'm standing today and take a look at this incredible facility," he said.
Biden stopped here en route to Panama, where the famed Panama Canal is undergoing a massive expansion, enabling it to accommodate much larger ships which will find their way more easily to U.S. ports.
We traveled there to chronicle how Houston stands to benefit. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan was on that trip and in attendance on Monday.
"I think it's very, very important that the federal government focuses on the importance of not only of the Panama Canal expansion, which means a tremendous amount to areas like this, but the Port of Houston, which is such an important part of the national economy," Ryan said.
With the vice president was Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who says ports are key to providing jobs and materials for manufacturing.
"The jobs that ports provide are jobs that people can live a middle-class life on," Biden said.
It was a message well delivered to the 300 invited guests.
"This is a huge economic engine for Houston and the surrounding areas. How can you have as much cargo that comes in and out of here? Somebody's gotta move it, somebody's gotta haul it, somebody's gotta check it. That alone is an economic engine for us," Texas State Rep. Borris Miles said.
The Port of Houston Authority has already spent millions to prepare for this expansion. Port officials are now urging the vice president to secure funding for annual dredging of the Houston Ship Channel. The man-made channel is added depth that would not accommodate those larger ships, and experts suggest it needs to be dredged to a depth of at least 45 feet if not deeper.
Biden said he recognizes that need, as well as additional infrastructure improvements at all of America's ports, so that the United States is the country to most benefit from the Panama Canal expansion.
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