Transport secretary surveys Port Manatee connector
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters Friday paid a personal visit to Port Manatee to discuss the possibility of building an east-west connector road that would link Port Manatee to Interstate 75.
The proposed connector road would significantly improve inland intermodal movements between the port and the interstate highway system, and has been touted by both local and state officials as the type of forward-thinking project needed to create intermodal transportation efficiencies in Florida.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) discuss a proposed east-west connector road linking Port Manatee to I-75.
Peters' visit raised the profile for the proposal, which has already been the subject of a feasibility study. An additional, $3.5 million has been authorized by the state for a Florida Department of Transportation Project Development and Environment Study, which is now in the bidding stage.
'I will be consulting with Congressman Buchanan and port officials to determine the correct approach for this project and to analyze funding options,' Peters said. She was accompanied by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Longboat Key whose district covers the port.
Port officials told Peters and Buchanan that looking at the larger picture the improved inland intermodal connection will be needed to meet increased shipping demand once the Panama Canal expansion is completed around 2014. Port Manatee and the entire Tampa Bay area stands to see dramatic volume increases at that time, officials said, but solid intermodal connections will be a key to developing the new market for cargoes from the transpacific trades.
Both Peters and Buchanan said they see a need for the project, adding that they believe a public-private funding package would be the best way to get the new connector built.
'We must be forward thinkers and seek appropriate solutions now to preserve the port's unencumbered access to the interstate system,' Buchanan said. 'We'll work with Secretary Peters and local officials to help the port overcome this pressing transportation challenge.'