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Northeast Florida transportation leaders hopeful over federal infrastructure package (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) — Northeast Florida’s shipping and logistics industry is cautiously optimistic that a proposed bipartisan federal infrastructure bill could help out the local industry, both in making it easier to move goods and increasing the number of goods moved.

As well as the $400 billion in expected transportation spending that Congress regularly renews, the bill calls for $579 billion in new spending. That includes about $109 billion in additional money for roads and bridges.

“The bridges are imperative because there are so many bridges that are part of our main infrastructure,” said Chris Reeves, chief commercial officer of AGX Freight, a Jacksonville-based, non-asset-based transportation services platform company.

“If one of those bridges fails, not only (are there) lives that are going to be at stake because of it, now what happens is you are creating congestion on other bridges that everyone will have to reroute over — not just trucks. You’re creating a bottleneck effect.”

There were 19,650 miles of roads built in Duval County in the 2019-20 fiscal year, the highest single-year increase in five years. Reeves said the way the infrastructure package would best benefit Northeast Florida would be to widen roads to accommodate for future growth, not current demand.

The companies hauling the materials that will be used in the projects in the bill will also benefit

In a speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden said his plan would help local transit agencies transform their fleets from diesel to cleaner energy, replace chemical-ridden water pipes, install a more resilient electrical grid, modernize ports and airports and widen and improve bridges.

“There are a lot of investments in this deal that are long overdue,” Biden said. “Economists of all stripes agree this will create good jobs and dramatically strengthen our economy in the long run. It makes it easier for businesses to seamlessly transport their goods. It makes it easier for workers to more easily access job opportunities.”

Transporting the materials for those projects could particularly impact movers of larger freight.

“There is always a ripple effect in the industry when anything like this happens,” said ArdenX LLC Chief Operating Officer Connor Miller, who co-founded the Jacksonville-based freight shipping and trucking company.

“It will be far less for us than the industrial-type companies. Frankly, companies that haul flatbed freight will see a benefit from this infrastructure bill because most of the things used in infrastructure have to be hauled on flatbeds.”

Meanwhile, one of Jacksonville’s largest maritime shipping companies is focusing on other moves they’d like to see the federal government make.

Both the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Maritime Administration are being led by acting administrators, which is a problem, said Crowley Maritime Corp. Chairman and CEO Tom Crowley.

“We urge our representatives to get a Maritime Administrator in office as quickly as possible,” Crowley told the Business Journal. “We think the administration should really focus on that, especially because we are going to need that representation at the table as this transportation and infrastructure bill pans out.”

For now, those in the industry are focusing their hopes on more federal attention being paid to the country’s infrastructure needs.

“Any kind of bill like this that gets based is always good for our industry because products never stop moving,” Miller said. “When an infrastructure bill is passed, that means more products are moving.”

Photo courtesy of Brian Stalter