Transportation tops the agenda at congressional roundtable

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Bill Shuster listened intently as transportation stakeholders talked about the issues they face. The deepening of port channels is at the top of the list.

Matthew Wypyski is the Port of Gulfport interim director.

"There are hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars being collected in a harbor maintenance tax," Wypyski explained. "That money is not being properly spent, fully spent to maintain our channels as it should be."

Air transportation upgrades were also on the table for airport director Clay Williams.

"The chairman certainly understands that airports are major economic engines in all parts of the country, including his home state of Pennsylvania," Williams said.

Shuster believes the Coast has several advantages.

"You have five class one railroads coming into South Mississippi which is unlike any other place in the country. There are very few places that have those types of assets," Shuster said.

He also believes the trucking industry plays a vital role.

"Trucks give the transportation system the greatest amount of flexibility, but it takes the whole system working together from the ports, the inland waterway systems, to the rails to the trucks which go on the highways," Shuster said.

One question asked time and time again at Wednesday's transportation roundtable was the austere budget cutting going on in Washington. They wanted to know if  there will be money left over for transportation improvements.

Tom King is the southern district Transportation Commissioner.

"It's got to be a priority. We've got to look at it as a priority, the infrastructure and the problems with roads and highways are a problem not only in our state, but nationally and I'm asking Congress and certainly our state legislature to make this a priority," King said.

The bottom line, transportation drives the business world, according to Congressman Steven Palazzo.

"Our sea, air and land assets are extremely important to our regional economy and our national economy and also to our national security," Palazzo said.

While visiting the Coast, chairman Shuster also went on a tour of Ingalls Shipyard.

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