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AAPA: Cargo volumes point to need for infrastructure upgrades

Increasing cargo volumes handled by U.S. ports are placing added strain on the nation's aging and "deficient" freight transportation network, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) announced last week. Citing a new report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the AAPA said that while volume of goods moving through the U.S. ports in 2014 boosted the nation's economy, it placed added burden on the freight transportation network. According to the report, freight volumes moving through U.S. seaports in 2014 reached a three-year high of 2.35 billion short tons. The figure includes foreign and domestic cargo shipped through and within the U.S. coastal, Great Lakes, non-contiguous and inland waterway ports. Exports set a record for the fifth year in a row with a year-over-year increase of 3.7 percent to 647.8 million tons. Imports rose for the first time since 2010, up 0.3 percent to 760.9 million tons. Domestic cargo ended the year on a positive note, with coastwise, Great Lakes and inland waterway commerce posting gains from 2013 of 4.3 percent, 3.0 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively. "While this is positive news for the American economy, the increased demand for goods places added strain on our already-overburdened freight transportation system, much of which is used to move cargo to and from our ports," said AAPA President and Chief Executive Officer Kurt Nagle. "In a 2015 AAPA survey, we found that one in three United States ports estimate they will require at least $100 million in land-side connection upgrades to handle their projected 2025 freight volumes." Over the long term, the growth trend for U.S. cargo remains positive for freight trade, according to AAPA's analysis of Corps data, association officials said.

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