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VP Biden praises Port of Charleston, calls for U.S. infrastructure improvement

VP Biden speaking at the Wando Terminal. (Source: Live 5) VP Biden speaking at the Wando Terminal. (Source: Live 5)
VP Biden taking pictures with Charleston port workers. (Source: Live 5) VP Biden taking pictures with Charleston port workers. (Source: Live 5)

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Vice President Joe Biden spoke in Charleston Wednesday morning as part of a push by the Obama administration for more money for the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

Biden joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the Wando-Welch port terminal in Mount Pleasant to discuss the need to fix the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure. 

"Are we going to have crumbling infrastructure that becomes a drag on the economy rather than an indicator of the prowess of America?, Foxx asked the group of local business leaders.

"I knew about this port long before I ever laid eyes on it," Biden said, pulling from the time he spent sitting next to Senator Fritz Hollings. "What I do know about yall, is yall get things done."

Biden spoke glowingly of the work done at the Port of the Charleston, and how important it is to the South Carolina and United States economy. 

"You generate $45 billion in economic impact, and your port is responsible for 260,000 jobs in South Carolina," Biden said. "That is a big deal."

Biden said in order grow, infrastructure improvement is a must. He says the United States ranks 28th in the world in infrastructure improvements, and "we shouldn't rank 28th in anything."

According to the vice president, a grant given to the South Carolina Ports Authority for the Wando Terminal will help upgrade the port, and allow for it to handle heavier and larger ships. Biden says the upgrade project will create 1,123 new jobs. 

"You're trying to fit sort of 20 lbs. of commerce into a ten pound commerce bag in here and it's causing long term damage which left unchecked, you know better than anyone could cripple the commerce that goes through the port of Charleston," Biden said.

Foxx is on a four-day, five-state tour that is taking him to Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. Biden is joining him on stops in Mount Pleasant, Columbia and Charlotte, North Carolina. While their exact schedule has not been released, they're supposed to be in Columbia at 1:30 pm to continue their tour. From there, they'll head to Charlotte to spend the night.

The administration has proposed a $500 billion, six year funding bill to fix the nation's aging infrastructure. Biden says they are calling for all corporate tax loopholes to be eliminated, and instead impose a flat tax of 28 percent. That change, according to Biden, would produce $200 billion, all of which would go towards improving infrastructure.

"We know we need infrastructure. We got to figure out a way to pay for it," State Ports Authority President Jim Newsome said. "They're trying to provide a catalyst for that. It's maybe not a perfect solution but at least it's a starting point."

The goal of the trip is to strengthen roads and infrastructure, but in the meantime it could cause some traffic headaches. Their route has not been released, but security related slowdowns are expected along Long Point Rd. People traveling I-526 and I-26 should be prepared for slowdowns ahead of the trip.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press/WCSC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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