Protecting and growing jobs through our ports

The completion of State Route 167 is important for many reasons-- increased overall mobility, job creation, safety improvements, and environmental enhancements.  But a big reason for why the state ought to complete this forty-year old project is how it would improve competitiveness of the Port of Tacoma.  Why should we care?  113,000 jobs throughout Washington state are connected to cargo passing through the Port.  This includes potato farmers in the Tri-Cities, heavy machinery manufacturers in Redmond and longshore workers in Tacoma.  Those jobs, however, are being put in jeopardy as the our ports in Puget Sound see increasing drops in market share.

Lawmakers ought to be paying attention to this notes John Talton, in the October 1 edition of the Seattle Times:

But for the Northwest, and the Puget Sound specifically, the writing is on the water. If it doesn’t regain momentum and increase its market share, it can expect no help when the wider Panama Canal opens. In an economy that is mostly defined by making the super-rich richer, the bankers happy and minting fast-food jobs, the ports provide middle-class positions to thousands and are essential competitive assets. I know we’re in danger of crisis fatigue, but the relative decline of the Puget Sound ports is one. This should be an urgent matter for political and business leaders.

But how does transportation affect competitiveness? Janet Kavinocky of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce teased this point out during testimony last week before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

An examination of the data for the US and our nearest competitor, Canada, emphasizes the inefficiencies in [US] land transportation. A Canadian exporter typically moves their goods for export 766 kilometers, versus a substantially shorter distance for US exporters of only 484 kilometers. The difference in total cost is about 10 percent [in favor of Canada]. The big difference is that US producers need more than 2 extra days to cover nearly half the distance.

Puget Sound ports are seeing a drop in market share relative to competitors in Canada, southern California and the east Coast, putting jobs associated with international trade in jeopardy.  If you want to make the Port of Tacoma more competitive-- and keep (and maybe even grow) those jobs-- then we need to address these transportation inefficiencies identified by Kavinocky.  We need to complete SR-167.