What The Newly Expanded Panama Canal Means for Texas

The canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific could bring more trade through Texas.

By Hady MawajdehDecember 7, 2015 9:30 am

Audio will be available shortly.

Texas ports along the Gulf Coasts play an important economic role in the state and across the country. According to federal data, three of the state’s 16 ports are among the top 10 busiest ports in the U.S.: Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi.

Some state lawmakers are worried that Texas and its ports may be unprepared for some big news coming out of Central America.

The Panama Canal has been expanded, meaning more tonnage will be carried through it. Texas Tribune reporter Aman Batheja has written about the expansion and its impact on the Texas economy.

“Texas puts very little money towards ports,” he says. “If they were to put a lot of money into expanding the ports to make it more receptive to the ships that are going to go through the expanded Panama Canal, that would be a big change from state policy.”

Batheja says the estimates have been wide ranging – some have numbered it at hundreds of millions – but “it’s not clear that there’s a huge benefit for shippers that normally use the West Coast,” he says.

Ports charge fees to ships and companies that use them, but the question is how much the ports put in versus how much the federal government puts in. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus have formed a committee on the topic, so Batheja says it may surface in the next legislative session in 2017.