Ports and inland waterways need an additional $6 billion to deepen harbors and overhaul river locks through 2020, says a new American Society of Civil Engineers report. Officials from ASCE and other groups say failing to improve infrastructure will hurt U.S. trade and job creation. Based on current funding, the study, released on Sept. 13, pegs 2020 maritime needs at $13 billion and spending at $7 billion. It says the funding gap would rise by $12 billion by 2040.

ASCE President Andrew W. Herrmann says ASCE recommends several steps to narrow the gap. The recommendations, which also are endorsed by the American Association of Port Authorities and Waterways Council, include trimming the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund's $7.1-billion balance by spending more on dredging projects. Estimated 2012 appropriations from the trust fund are $865 million. Jerry A. Bridges, Virginia Port Authority executive director, says, "With a $7-billion surplus … there appears to be plenty of money available to do the dredging that's necessary to allow bigger ships to come into ports where the authorized depth would allow that."

The groups also want the Corps of Engineers to expedite reviews and approvals for port and river improvements and are urging Congress to pass a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes funds for Corps projects. But no action is likely on a WRDA in this Congress. The last such multiyear water-resources measure was enacted in November 2007.

The report, produced by the Economic Development Research Group, Boston, also estimates airports' annual capital funding gap at $2 billion through 2020 and $1 billion through 2040.