Ironically, motorists may be among the primary beneficiaries of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to designate the Texas Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between Brownsville and Port Arthur the “M-69 Marine Highway.”
So says Steve Tyndal, senior director of marketing and business development for the Port of Brownsville. He explained that the M-69 designation makes the waterway eligible for federal funding, with the aim of spurring waterborne transportation that ultimately would improve the flow of traffic on I-69 by reducing truck traffic. Oversized loads, which frequently require escort vehicles when transported over land, are ideal for waterborne transport as long as it doesn’t have to be there fast, Tyndal said.
“That type of cargo is really not suited for highways,” he said. “This might be a way to actually remove that traffic from I-69. Of course, when you do that you increase the fuel efficiency of the delivery of that cargo, because you’re using a tug and barge as opposed to multiple trucks. And you lessen the potential for conflict with passenger vehicles.”
Greater fuel efficiency means fewer emissions, another positive aspect of tug and barge transport, Tyndal said. Although the port’s maritime operations would benefit from any additional throughput, the M-69 designation won’t necessarily translate into a big revenue increase, he said. That said, the port would be eligible to apply for federal funding for capital improvements to support M-69 cargo operations, if those operations have been approved by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), Tyndal said.
The offices of U.S. representatives Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, announced the designation June 3 and again June 7. Vela was quoted saying it would “improve and expand the efficient flow of vehicular and maritime traffic on our roads and at our water ports, which in turn will help create jobs and grow our South Texas economy.” The M-69 corridor encompasses the Gulf of Mexico, the Intracoastal Waterway and connecting commercial navigation channels, ports and harbors within the state, including 13 shallow-draft ports and 11 deepwater ports, including the Port of Brownsville.
By STEVE CLARK | Staff Writer