Panama, the Port and the Intermodal: A Pretty Big Deal
There was a neat op ed in the Baltimore Sun (“Cargo transfer facility well worth state’s investment“) yesterday by MTC Logistics president Harry Halpert. MTC Logistics, now a huge warehousing and storage operation that “links Baltimore to the world,” grew from a local cold storage company based in Charm City that has been owned by the same family for the last 100 years.
Mr. Halpert wrote about the importance of readying our state and our Port for the opportunities brought by the Panama Canal expansion over two thousand miles away. This expansion, which we’ve talked about before, means huge (literally) new business through the Port of Baltimore, which is now being deepened for significantly larger ships to come through Panama.
And, somewhere between Baltimore and Washington, a new “intermodal” facility will be located along the CSX rail line to enable freight to be trucked from the Port and placed onto double-stacked trains, sending it out efficiently across the East Coast and – more significantly – opening up new markets throughout the Midwest.
A decision has yet to be made on where that new facility will be built: a long and deliberate federal process has narrowed the list down to just four candidates in the state, two of which are right here in Howard County. To come from that facility, Mr. Halpert lists “more than 200 new jobs during construction and approximately 7,200 jobs during the first 20 years of the facility’s operation” and “approximately $8.8 billion in cumulative economic benefits by 2034, and nearly $400 million in tax revenues for state and local government.”
According to Mr. Halpert – and news to me – are the environmental benefits to the state: that “the expanded use of rail transportation will reduce long-haul truck traffic and cut the emission of greenhouse gases” for “cleaner and less congested roads” and that “the facility itself will operate in a clean fashion, relying on electric, zero-emission cranes and technology designed to reduce truck idling time.”
This is a pretty big deal. With the Port of Baltimore expansion to be finished next year, and the Panama Canal widening in 2014, we are approaching what looks to be a new era of transport for the state of Maryland.
I wrote the other day about how I hope Howard County can lead the way here. This is an opportunity – if we take advantage of it – that will have huge impacts for generations to come. We should all be ready to get involved in this process, if we don’t want to be left behind.