The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Port of Port Arthur Commissioners have established a funding mechanism to support a variety of projects with the creation of Transportation Reinvestment Zone No. 1.
Though Port Commissioners approved creation of the zone at their regular meeting Wednesday, they have not yet identified specific projects, or designated revenue.
Likely among those projects, however, is expansion of the Sabine-Neches Waterway — a $1.2 billion project that will require local match funds, said Floyd Gaspard, Port of Port Arthur executive director, said.
A transportation reinvestment zone was established by the Texas Legislature as a means for cities and counties to fund transportation infrastructure projects.
Once a zone is created, a base year is established and the incremental increase in property tax revenue collected inside the zone is used to finance a project in the zone, according to the Texas Department of Transportation’s Web site.
In the Port’s case, Commissioners are hoping to generate money to augment efforts to deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway from 40 feet to 48 feet, as well as the expanding and modernization of Port berths.
“This will give the port different means of financing future growth and expansion opportunities in addition to participating in the expenses of deepening the channel without going out for general obligation bonds, if that is the pleasure of the board,” Gaspard said.
In May, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Resource Development Act, which provides federal funding for improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure.
In October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, the Water Resources Reform and Develop Act, which authorizes construction of the proposed Sabine-Neches deepening project.
Once a final bill is drafted and voted on, it will be forwarded to the president’s desk.
In order to establish a tax reinvestment zone, the area it encompasses must be underdeveloped.
It must also promote public safety, facilitate the improvement, development, or redevelopment of property, facilitate the movement of traffic and enhance the local entity’s ability to sponsor transportation projects.
Gaspard said it is imperative that the Sabine-Neches be expanded.
“This waterway has been at 40 feet authorized depth for 50-plus year, most major ports are deepening beyond 40 feet,” Gaspard said. “If this waterway does not stay in step, it will be left behind.”
According to Gaspard, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District voted to create a Transportation Reinvestment Zone last week, and the Port of Beaumont is considering the same.