Coastal Bend Transportation Makes Worldwide Connections

Companies in the Coastal Bend Region take advantage of air, sea, road and rail connections to do business around the world.

By
Karen Schwartzman
On Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 04:00

The Coastal Bend Region lies at the center of a multimodal transportation network that's growing to meet demands of international shipping and local economic development.

Major highways crisscross the region, including I-37, U.S. Highways 181 and 77, and a leg of the I-69 extension under construction. 

Port Corpus Christi, the fifth largest U.S. port by tonnage, is also home to one of the largest Foreign Trade Zones. Rail shippers can choose from three Class I rail carriers: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern.

Freight and passengers can reach domestic and international destinations through the Corpus Christi International Airport.

Expanding for Growth

The region's transportation network has expanded to meet the demands from companies involved in developing the Eagle Ford Shale petroleum reserves.

Port Corpus Christi is seeing record freight volumes moving materials for the Eagle Ford Shale developments, as well as other energy-related cargo such as wind turbines.

"We're at the business end of the funnel for the Eagle Ford Shale for products needed for drilling and exploration and for exporting of the finished products," says Sandy Sanders, deputy port director for operations and business development.

The port recently reopened a dormant dock to accommodate oil shipments by barge, and work is underway to extend the La Quinta Channel and its barge dock capacity so the facility can handle more shipping containers. An environmentally friendly dredging program will give the La Quinta gateway deep-water access. Also, the Panama Canal expansion will increase the port’s potential as a gateway for international freight.

"The whole Gulf Coast will participate in that, but we're preparing ourselves to be a major player," Sanders says.

The port recently received a federal TIGER grant to expand rail infrastructure, Sanders notes.

"A port is just a node in the transportation equation, and you are only as good as your ability to handle the maritime traffic, but it's the highway and rail transportation network that's equally important to that port," Sanders says.

Increased demand for petrochemical exports from the region is also fueling trucking and distribution growth.

Louisiana-based Dupre Logistics recently opened a terminal in Corpus Christi to move petroleum coke, crude and other materials for clients in the region.

“We welcome the opportunity to serve the region’s growing crude, energy and dedicated needs," says Jeff Colonna, vice president of operations.

International Connections

In Robstown, economic development officials are working to establish an inland port to provide Chinese manufacturers with a storage and distribution hub for overseas goods shipped through Mexican and U.S. ports.

FedEx is the newest tenant at Corpus Christi International Airport with a 46,000-square-foot ground- and freight-shipping center in the airport's 80-acre International Business Center. The U.S. Coast Guard is also relocating its sector headquarters facility to the airport, says Kim Bridger, the airport's public relations and marketing coordinator.

Heavier cargo planes will soon be able to take off from the airport, which is in the midst of a three-year, $50 million runway extension and safety improvement project.

"With all that's going on in our economy right now, we're ready and able to get these projects going," Bridger says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A writer, sky diver, book lover and bungy jumper, Karen Schwartzman is a content coordinator by day and trivia fanatic by night.