Traffic congestion outside the main gates of America’s seaports would be reduced in the President’s highway bill awaiting action in Congress, US Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said last week during a visit to Jacksonville’s port docks.

“What good is it to have state-of-the-art equipment on the docks if container trucks slow to a crawl outside the main gates?” Secretary Mineta asked following a tour of Jaxport’s Blount Island Terminal.

He said the President’s bill, known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA), would provide funding for port-related road projects to reduce congestion as trucks hauling hundreds of thousands of trailers headed for market leave their docks each day.

“The connections between our ports and the highways that serve them must be as efficient as the ports themselves,” he said.

Secretary Mineta urged Congress to act on the bill, now almost two years overdue. He said action is “long overdue,” and that Congress has left the bill, “waiting like a ship with no place to dock.”

He said the President is committed to working with Congress to pass a bill that would spend a record $284 billion on highway and transit projects, but warned the Administration would not, “give in to pressure to approve irresponsible plans that would no doubt lead to higher deficits or new gas taxes.”

Secretary Mineta said the SAFETEA proposal is the first to include provisions that would help pay for better highway connections to ports.

“Freight and logistics issues have finally taken their rightful place on the surface reauthorization agenda,” but he said the benefits of the proposal can only be realized if Congress acts soon.

“With freight volumes soaring and bottlenecks on the rise, the time for this legislation is now. Action on our bill is long overdue,” Secretary Mineta said.

Secretary Mineta’s visit to Jacksonville, FL was the third in a series of stops he made last week in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast in celebration of National Transportation Week. On May 16, Mineta visited North and South Carolina. On May 17, he stopped in Tallahassee before going on to Alabama for evening appearances in Mobile. He was scheduled to be in Baton Rouge and Fourchon, Louisiana May 18 and 19. (US Department of Transportation)