Port of Call

Wanna know why three of your city council members--Ed Oakley, Bill Blaydes and Ron Natinsky--are in China at this very moment? (To beat the heat? For the food? To spend a small fortune of taxpayers' money on a summer vacation?) Well, Sarah Dodd of KTVT-Channel 11 will probably provide the answer when she returns in a few days; she's the only local journalist accompanying the threesome on their meet-and-greet, grip-and-grin trip to Asia, which has otherwise received little notice in the local media. But my favorite publication, the subscription-only Traffic World, has a piece this morning concerning the reason for their little jaunt (this marks Natinsky's second trip to China since November): It has to do, of course, with that inland port in southern Dallas County, which was established in April 2005 by the city of Dallas, the Port of Houston Authority and the Maritime Administration Office of Intermodal Development. (The Panama Canal Authority's also involved, and the whole shebang got the thumbs-up from the thinkers at the Urban Land Institute last month.)

The Traffic World piece deals specifically with how the inland port could lead to a bitter rivalry with Houston or unprecedented cooperation; hard to say just yet. But this is what TW says this morning:

"Dallas and Houston clash over everything from business to sports to which city has the better restaurants. Now add to the mix which has the better distribution and logistics network as the cities grapple for a greater share of containerized Asian freight and intermodal North American Free Trade Agreement traffic. The intense intra-Texas rivalry is part of a larger battle that involves cities such as Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and even Indianapolis, all of which hope to use transportation and logistics assets to become the next big North American gateway for Asian imports.

However, Dallas will have to cooperate with its old rival if it wants to be the linchpin of a new NAFTA corridor. It needs containers from the growing Port of Houston to feed its nascent inland port. Likewise, a bigger and better hub to the north could drive more traffic to the Port of Houston, fast becoming the dominant port in the Gulf of Mexico.

In fact, changing global logistics demands and distribution networks may drive Dallas and Houston closer together--whether they like it or not...Industry observers wonder whether shippers need two major distribution hubs only 240 miles apart, or whether the Port of Houston and Dallas might be better off working together as one greater logistics 'super-hub' served by the Trans-Texas Corridor or 'NAFTA highway.' Dallas hopes to become the place where East meets West--literally. It seeks Asian imports in containers shipped from Los Angeles and Long Beach and intermodal freight moving north from Mexico on the proposed $180 billion Trans-Texas Corridor or 'TTC.'"

There's plenty more, but I am sure you already get Traffic World, if only for the "Bumper to Bumper" centerfold. And if you needed further proof Houston and Dallas are getting competitive over this NAFTA port, you need only go here. I love this: "Calling anything a Port that does not have water is nothing but marketing. And Dallas is all about the marketing." Point? What's your point? --Robert Wilonsky

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