Local lawmakers hailed for support that led to $66M in grants for area ports

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, December 19, 2023

ORANGE — Christmas came early for the ports in Southeast Texas to the tune of $66 million in state grants.

Lorrie Taylor, director of the Port of Orange, said the $66 million staying in Southeast Texas funds a portion of six projects in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Sabine Pass.

Without the efforts of the local legislators, many of the projects being funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, Port Connectivity Program and the Maritime Infrastructure Program would have been put on hold due to a lack of funding, Taylor said.

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On Monday, individuals associated with the four ports and others gathered at the Port of Orange to celebrate the legislators for their support.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee; state Rep. Dade Phelan, Speaker of the House; and state Rep. Christian Manuel addressed the crowd.

Nichols grew up watching the barges in the ship channel and knew they were carrying something important. Later when then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed him to the Transportation Committee he got an even better understanding of all forms of transportation, he said.

Nichols said funding for port projects didn’t happen overnight and when it did happen it began slowly with $20 million a year placed in access projects to the ports, which increased to approximately $40 million a session to access ports but not on the inside of the gates and not on the finding for the waterway itself.

For that it took leadership and people working together.

“It was not just a Republican or Democratic issue, it involved everybody,” Nichols said.

Phelan said there had never been funding for ports like this before in the history of the State of Texas.

He joked that $66 million in funding for ports would have been a record prior to this legislative session.

Phelan agreed with Nichols in that not all of the lawmakers have the privilege of representing ports.

“We have to explain to them how important it is, the economic driving force of ports and every tonnage you can take off our roads and can put it on our ports and put it in pipelines is a win for the State of Texas,” Phelan said.

Each of the ports have a Seaport Connectivity Project grant and Maritime Infrastructure Program grant.