Bill to stretch port's authority could lure businesses to county
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A bill giving the Port of Victoria new permitting authority could have widespread environmental and economic effects.
Texas Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 524 into law on June 17. The bill, filed by state Sen. Glenn Hegar and sponsored by state Rep. Geanie Morrison, takes effect Sept 1.
Under the legislation, the Port of Victoria can quickly issue permits for oversized vehicles that haul heavy loads along certain roads from the port to the Caterpillar manufacturing site.
This greater authority would streamline the permitting process, which requires wading through red tape imposed by the Texas Department of Transportation.
By making it quicker and easier to ship and pick up cargo from the port, the bill would also promote more waterway transports. This could reduce 18-wheeler traffic to Victoria from the Port of Houston and potentially attract more industry to the county.
Caterpillar, which broke ground on its massive excavator plant, would benefit immediately.
"Suppliers for Caterpillar and other companies may consider moving to Victoria because of this transportation option," Hegar said. "Victoria has become an intermodal hub with waterway, rail and highway options. This confluence is attractive for a business needing competitive transportation options to help control their costs."
Water transport can reduce air pollution, wear and tear on roadways and traffic fatalities. While slower, water transport - or container-on-barge - is also the most environmentally-friendly and cost-effective means of moving cargo.
"In these difficult economic times, businesses are looking to reduce their bottom line and this route allows them to do that," Morrison said.
While the port cannot issue permits for heavy loads along all the county's roadways, the bill gives it authority over these stretches:
Farm-to-Market Road 1432 between the Port of Victoria and State Highway 185.
State Highway 185 between U.S. Highway 59 and McCoy Road.
U.S. Highway 59, including a frontage road of U.S. Highway 59, between State Highway 185 and Loop 463.
Loop 463 between U.S. Highway 59 and North Lone Tree Road.
Coupled with Caterpillar's heavy use of the port, it's likely Victoria County Navigation District leaders will soon secure a container-on-barge shuttle service of sorts. By having a regular flow of barges between the ports in Houston and Victoria, the district can better lure those companies that rely on such services.
"We've talked to several barge companies that regularly run between Houston and Victoria," said Jennifer Stastny, port director. "Once things get moving out here and we get a good volume of output and supply, we'll be able to attract even more business."