After making a visit last week to Atlanta’s King Center, Vice President Joe Biden tapped Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to travel with him to Panama this week. The two are part of a coalition to see a project on the Panama Canal that Reed called “Georgia’s largest economic development project.”
In addition to Biden’s visit to Atlanta last week to take part in an immigration ceremony, this week’s trip follows a September meeting in which Reed and other state leaders joined Biden at the Port of Savannah to highlight the importance of infrastructure investments in the United States that representatives for the group say are needed to improve America’s competitiveness, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy.
The state of Georgia has allocated $231 million toward the0Port of Savannah’s deepening, , estimated to cost $662 million. Federal appropriation bills have passed both the Senate and House in recent months.
“This marks a key milestone in our work to prepare for the expansion of the Panama Canal by deepening the Port of Savannah,” said Reed in a statement. “The port deepening will be Georgia’s largest economic development project and the positive impact on Atlanta cannot be overstated. The project will fuel the state, region and city’s economic growth, strengthen our global competitiveness and accelerate Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s expansion as a leading logistics and cargo hub.”
The delegation, which also includes Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schulz of Florida, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, left Monday. The group will meet with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to tour the project.
Biden has called for quickly moving forward on port improvement projects across the East Coast, particularly in Georgia. The vice president highlighted the importance of upgrades to the canal for the state during his Savannah tour in September.
“The Georgia Ports Authority is an impressive operation, but the Port of Savannah, like others along the East Coast, must prepare for the future of shipping,” Biden said. “U.S. harbors must be deepened to accommodate larger, more efficient Post-Panamax vessels in order for the nation to benefit from the cost savings allowed by these larger ships.”
The mayor’s participation in the trip was announced Friday. The duration of the trip was not included in the announcement.
“Groundbreaking on this project is within sight,” said Reed. “Getting a final bill to the President needs to be a priority for Congress. I am honored to be included in the bi-partisan delegation to Panama which sends a strong signal that leaders from both sides of the aisle are committed to strengthening America’s infrastructure.”
Though the bill to finance the project has been passed by Congress, it still needs to go through conference committee and be signed by the president to become law.