Feds Award Grants for Freight Waterways

Port of Greater Baton Rouge
Port of Greater Baton Rouge

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To alleviate bottlenecks along the country’s major supply chains, the Maritime Administration recently awarded nearly $39 million in grants to a dozen marine highway projects.

The funding is meant to assist with expansion projects along marine highways, the leadership at the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated. Such projects aim to improve access to navigable waterways and reduce congestion.

“At a time of record demand for goods, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our supply chains so our manufacturers can grow and American families can get the things they need quickly and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement that accompanied the announcement Oct. 6.

“Today’s announcement,” the secretary continued, “will help improve our marine highway system across the country, alleviating congestion, modernizing port operations, and ultimately lowering the cost of goods for American families.”

Grant recipients included the Puerto Rico Maritime Transportation Service Project, the New York Harbor Container and Trailer-on-Barge Service and the Guam Marine Transportation Enhancement Initiative. The $5.7 million grant for Guam seeks to assist with the expansion of the Port Authority of Guam’s fleet of specialized container yard equipment. USDOT explained: “The equipment includes two 40-ton loaded container handlers; three 10-ton empty container handlers; five 5.5-ton forklifts; one 180-foot boom lift; nine container yard tractors; and two 40-plug mobile reefer generators.”

Other recipients included the Helena Harbor M-55 Container on Barge Project, the Baton Rouge-New Orleans Shuttle Service Barge Expansion Project and New Jersey’s Port Raritan Terminal Facility. The $1.1 million for the Garden State is for “conducting preliminary design and environmental investigation activities to develop the Port Raritan Terminal Facility for active maritime use.”

The agency’s Marine Highway Program, which manages the grants, “is an innovative program that encourages the use of America’s navigable waterways for the movement of freight and people, reducing congestion on land-based transportation,” Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips said. “The funding announced today advances our ongoing efforts to help new marine highway services begin operation and to improve existing services.”

In December, the Maritime Administration awarded nearly $13 million in grants for nine projects. The grants also were part of the America’s Marine Highway Program. Recipients included a barge upgrade project across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, a barge improvement project in Camden, N.J., and trailer-on-barge service enhancements between New York and New Jersey. Projects in Hawaii, Texas, Tennessee and Delaware also benefited from the grants.

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For more than a year, the White House has activated a response to national supply chain woes. “In President [Joe] Biden’s first year in office, the Biden-Harris administration has implemented an industrial strategy to revitalize domestic manufacturing, create good-paying American jobs, strengthen American supply chains, and accelerate the industries of the future,” according to a White House update on its supply chain response. “These policies have spurred an historic recovery in manufacturing, adding 642,000 manufacturing jobs since 2021. Companies are investing in America again, bringing good-paying manufacturing jobs back home. The construction of new manufacturing facilities has increased 116% over last year.”

Biden administration officials also point to the potential benefits resulting from supply chain-centric provisions in the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bipartisan infrastructure law was enacted Nov. 15.