The Port of Seattle takes our role as a regional economic engine seriously, especially during these challenging times. Despite the significant downturn, we have continued to invest in critical aviation and maritime infrastructure that has saved and created jobs while positioning ourselves for recovery.
In light of the need to rebuild, we all have a vested interest in the current debate in Washington, D.C., over “what is infrastructure.” Should federal infrastructure investments go beyond just bridges and roads to include electric vehicles, broadband, cyber security, or even child care and worker training?
President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion American Jobs Plan answers this question with a triple-bottom line approach that combines the needs for physical infrastructure with sustainability and equity. The Port of Seattle embraces this approach and is poised to collaborate in such efforts.
With more than 90% of the world’s trade being carried on ships and planes, port infrastructure is fundamental to the national and regional economy and quality of life — especially in one of the most trade-reliant states in the nation.
At the port, we are making $3.7 billion in physical infrastructure investments over the next five years. This summer we will open new international and domestic terminals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance and SSA Marine, we are investing nearly half a billion dollars to turn Terminal 5 near West Seattle into a premier, environmentally advanced container facility this year. These are generational investments for the region that will greatly benefit from federal support.
In addition, two of the president’s proposals — a sustainable aviation fuels tax credit and $6 billion for a Healthy Port Initiative — would help us further invest in environmental sustainability, in aviation and maritime — two of the hardest sectors to decarbonize.
We have set a goal to power every flight out of Sea-Tac Airport with at least a 10% blend of sustainable aviation fuel by 2028. Passage of a Clean Fuels Standard and “cap and invest” legislation by state legislators this session were huge victories, but we still need federal policies to make renewable fuels cost competitive.
Significant federal and international investments also are needed to decarbonize the maritime sector. For example, investments are needed to modernize the local electrical grid if more ships and cargo equipment are to use shore power.
Regionally, the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Northwest Seaport Alliance and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in British Columbia have updated the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, which calls for the elimination of seaport-related climate and air pollution emissions by midcentury. We are doing our part, but federal assistance will be key to that accomplishment.
Finally, clean port initiatives provide significant benefits to communities as well as to the climate. The port has developed programs like the Duwamish Valley Community Benefits Commitment program and South King County Fund to address the disproportional impact of our operations on near-port communities.
Such efforts align with President Biden’s call for a Civilian Climate Corps to employ thousands of young people to address the threat of climate change and maintain our natural infrastructure.
In addition to President Biden’s proposal, Congress has recently introduced several bills, such as the Climate Smart Ports Act, which we hope will be incorporated into the final American Jobs Plan. Congress also should increase funding for existing grant programs such as Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity to further these goals.
It is essential that we pair our work to create jobs with programs focused on youth, innovation and workforce development, especially for those who have had the least access to opportunities.
Ultimately, the answer to “what is infrastructure?” are investments that create a healthy economy, environment and community. We call on Congress to support the president’s plan for sufficient funding for port-related infrastructure so that we can continue to help the region and nation build back better.