Politico: Panama Canal expansion turns into ‘money grab’

From Politico’s Panama Canal expansion turns into ‘money grab’:

Lawmakers have used the expansion to push along bills, beg for more funding and tout their role enhancing international trade. And the canal has turned into an unlikely catchphrase for an oft-ignored port industry.

But much stands in the way of that potential. Goods still will move faster across the country than through a full water route. The East Coast option may prove cheaper, but Panama has not said how much it will charge in tolls. And the Suez Canal already offers a venue for these larger ships.

The truth is nobody really knows.

“It’s all a money grab,” said Tom Finkbiner, senior chairman of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver. “The competition becomes between ports and it goes to Washington and you have to justify why you are spending this money. So it becomes an excuse.”

The piece notes that only Norfolks seems ready for the bigger ships.

It’s an interestingly cynical take on the funding process for deeper ports. As more of the national press looks at the issues involved, the arguments for widespread dredging on the East Coast are getting scrutinized — and aren’t faring very well.