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October 16, 2020 2:15 PM, EDT

DOT Awards $220 Million for Port Infrastructure

Norfolk International Terminals at Port of VirginiaTrucks sit at the Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia. The terminals received $20.1 million to support expansion of the facility’s Central Rail Yard, which will involve the construction of eight tracks. (Port of Virginia)

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The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $220 million in grants to improve port infrastructure, including facilities used by freight vehicles.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the funding, through the Maritime Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, on Oct. 15.

The latest round of grants represents 18 projects in 15 states and territories.

Authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, the Port Infrastructure Development Program is meant to help meet freight transportation needs. The program offers planning, operational and capital financing, as well as project management assistance, to port representatives.

“This $220 million in federal grants will improve America’s ports,” Chao said. “Nearly half the projects are located in Opportunity Zones, which were established to revitalize economically distressed communities.”

Of the 18 projects that received grants, eight are in Opportunity Zones. Established in 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones were created to boost economic development in low-income communities. In particular, they are meant to generate economic development by providing tax benefits to investors. Approximately 8,760 Opportunity Zones have been designated in all 50 states, five territories and Washington.

One of the largest individual awards, totaling $20.1 million, was granted to Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia. The funding will support expansion of the facility’s Central Rail Yard, which will involve the construction of eight tracks. Additionally, the project will create a return access road to separate drayage traffic headed back to the container yard from general truck traffic.

Some $9.7 million was awarded for the Port of Port Arthur to improve cargo mobility and productivity. Located in Texas, just across the border from Louisiana and 19 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Port Arthur handles cargo ranging from forest products to steel. Specifically, the funding will support construction of a building that will offer storage space and a covered area for all-weather truck and rail loading.

The Port of Conneaut received $19.5 million to improve connectivity for rail and trucks. Conneaut is located in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. The grant will help construct a new roadway to link port traffic to U.S. Route 20 and rail infrastructure to connect to the East Conneaut Industrial Park.

In Avondale, La., a $9.8-million grant will help convert a former Avondale Shipyard wharf into a modern cargo dock. The dock will allow smoother handling of bulk cargo. Avondale is located 13 miles down the Mississippi River from New Orleans’ French Quarter. This award represents an Opportunity Zone project.

Another Opportunity Zone project will take place in Brownsville, Texas, which is located at the state’s southern tip, across the border from Mexico. DOT awarded $14.5 million to support the expansion and upgrade of a grain and bulk handling facility. The project will involve road and rail improvements.

“This critical investment demonstrates the Trump administration’s commitment to supporting our nation’s ports and maritime industry,” Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said. “These grants will help our nation’s economy and ensure that America’s ports can continue to operate effectively in the competitive global marketplace.”

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