In a recent op-ed in The Hill, Dave Matsuda, a former U.S. Maritime Administrator under the Obama administration, calls for bipartisan cooperation to increase infrastructure investment under the new administration. For Washington, he says, momentum created by President-elect Trump’s promised commitment to infrastructure investing is a great opportunity to address regulatory and policy issues around the state’s famed maritime sector.
Matsuda argues that Washington’s “legacy as a natural corridor to and from the Pacific” is dependent upon a “strong, well-integrated transportation sector.” However, he cautions, “even with existing infrastructure and Washington’s coastal position, the current reality is the state continues to lose ground to competition.”
In order to reverse this decline, Matsuda points to recommendations laid out in a policy brief he authored alongside Steve Rothberg, a maritime expert and partner at Mercator International, a maritime consulting firm, late last year. The report points to three primary challenges to maritime growth and notes several corresponding policy reforms that state regulators and officials can carry out to ensure Washington ports can successfully compete with other growing maritime hubs in North America.
One of the challenges mentioned, the issue of a lack of clear project siting and permitting process, is particularly salient for Washington today. The Millennium Bulk Terminals project has been awaiting permitting for nearly five years, facing an onslaught of red tape and environmental mitigation mandates that are unprecedented. The competition has found ways to deal with these problems – Canada passed a ‘shot clock’ bill that mandates completion of permitting within 18 months – and as Matsuda notes, “if Washington bears a reputation for being more unsupportive to maritime and port business than other states, new project opportunities will look elsewhere for siting and existing employers will eventually follow.”
With infrastructure investing a high priority on the new administration’s docket, Washington should follow suit and put policies in place that encourage investors to finish projects and create the economic growth that the state needs. Stalling infrastructure investments like Millennium’s project will only hold back job growth and push businesses away from Washington and towards the competition. In 2017, it’s time to embrace economic growth and ease Washington’s regulatory environment.
Read the full piece here.