By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
Supply chain interruptions in recent years have emphasized how essential ports are to state, national and global economies. Texas relies heavily on a strong port system to maintain its leading position as the nation’s top exporter and importer by tonnage.
The state’s 20 public ports handle 616.2 million tons of foreign and domestic cargo and represent 25 percent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Texas Ports Association. Our ports impact more than 1.8 million jobs, generating $102 billion in personal income.
To meet demand and remain competitive with ports across the U.S., Texas ports are investing heavily in upgrading their facilities. The Port of Galveston is implementing a 20-Year Strategic Master Plan that details more than $600 million in major capital and maintenance improvements to maximize port assets. This does not include ongoing maintenance of the Galveston Ship Channel. Port capital projects include an internal roadway, a fourth cruise terminal and expansion and improvements to the West Port Cargo Complex.
While our Texas ports may compete for business, we also work together through the Port Authority Advisory Committee (PAAC) to raise awareness with key decision-makers about the vital roles Texas ports play and our future needs. The Texas Transportation Commission appoints seven members of the PAAC to represent Texas ports, with the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House of Representatives each appointing an additional member
I’m proud to represent the Port of Galveston on the PAAC to advance the following goals:
- Identify high-priority and strategic port projects and make recommendations to the department for investment
- Incorporate maritime interests in Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) planning activities and documents
- Promote Texas ports for economic development opportunities
- Identify federal, state or other funding opportunities for maritime investment
The PAAC has developed a 2024-25 Port Mission Plan that identifies over $9.67 billion in funding needs for inland connectivity projects that serve Texas ports, planned facilities investments for public ports between 2021 and 2025, and eight authorized ship channel improvement projects.
Port of Galveston projects in the mission plan total $301.2 million and include the following:
- West port roadway improvements feasibility study
- Galveston Island wayfinding project
- West End Cargo Complex expansion
- Wharf Road (interior port roadway) and utility improvement and gate relocation
- Cruise terminal parking garage
- Cruise terminal walkway circulation improvements
- Pelican Island berth development
- Pelican Island projects – Phase 1
This plan was presented to the 88th Texas Legislature before the current session and served as the basis for a request for $600 million in state funds for capital projects and ship channel improvements for Texas ports. We’re hopeful that our state leaders recognize the critical role Texas ports play in strengthening economies and supply chains across the globe, as well as the return on investment the state will receive by investing in these economic engines.
Rodger Rees is Galveston Wharves port director and CEO. He serves on the Texas Department of Transportation Port Authority Advisory Committee and represents the port in the Texas Ports Association.