Panama Plus the Port of Houston Equals Money and Traffic Jams

Panama Canal Expansion Raises Expectations in Houston — Transportation | The Texas Tribune.

The Panama Canal is expanding to accommodate larger ships.  Many of those large ships may dock at the Port of Houston.

The port is overseeing $3 billion in updates to its berths and cranes and other facilities, many of which are being completed in anticipation of the 2014 debut of the expanded Panama Canal.

This year a record 8,073 ships docked in Houston, off-loading cargo from all over the world – Volkswagons, bananas, and iPads.  These products were then shipped across the US on trains and trucks.  If the traffic at the port increases due to the larger ships able to traverse the Canal, how much more traffic will these transportation routes see?

“I think that we will see an increase, but we are very, very conservative in what we forecast, about a 15 percent increase of the traffic we get on the trade lane from Asia to Houston,” Kunz said, discussing the movement of container ships.

Kunz, a Vice-President of the Houston Port Authority, says some of these transportation routes need updating:

“The rail system needs to be redesigned, because even though the two major railroads serving here do a good job, the rail system was designed well over 100 years ago, and a lot of those rail tracks still go through downtown, which doesn’t make any sense.”

Houston won’t be the only port to benefit; New Orleans, Mobile, and those along the East coast will see more traffic:

“The West Coast is going to lose some. We’re going to get a little bit. The East Coast ports are going to get a little. Everyone is going to share a little bit more in the wealth.”

What effect will the increase have on road traffic in Texas?  How much more barge/ship traffic will traverse the Mississippi River?  How will the decrease in West Coast port traffic affect train traffic across the US (a large percentage of Union Pacific train business is transporting cargo from West Coast ports to Chicago/New Orleans ports for transport to Europe)?

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