U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold isn't wasting time reaching out to Donald Trump about the Coastal Bend's largest port and its needs.
The Republican from Corpus Christi penned a letter Thursday to the President-elect encouraging him to work to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
He spoke specifically about the Port of Corpus Christi, which has for years pursued federal help to fund $350 million in channel improvements.
He urged Trump to include funding for the project in either the 2017 or 2018 federal budget, calling it a "major economic engine" for South Texas.
"This project ... is critical to the growth and sustainability of not only the Texas economy, but also the economy of the nation,” Farenthold said.
Talk of making a variety of channel improvements at the nation's fifth-largest port has been ongoing for decades, but has gained new momentum in recent years as vessel traffic and cargo volumes have increased. Experts believe recent expansion of the Panama Canal and the repeal of the nation’s ban on crude exports will further accelerate trade.
Port officials want to widen the channel to 530 feet from Port Aransas to the Harbor Bridge. They also hope to deepen it from 45 feet to 52 feet, a feat that promises to make it the deepest port in Texas. Congress has already authorized the port's channel improvement project twice – in 2007 and 2014. At neither time, however, were funds allocated to do the work. The project is estimated to cost $350 million.
The port authority has agreed to spend $2.1 million in recent weeks and has hired consultants to perform studies, sediment testing and other tasks at various spots in the channel related to the improvements.
In his letter, Farenthold also pointed to a 2015 study that found the port is responsible for more than 76,000 jobs, and that marine cargo activity at its public and private terminals generated a total of $15.2 billion of total economic activity in the state.
A total of 103.5 million tons of cargo, most of it petroleum, made its way through the port last year.