FHWA Makes Grants Available to Lower Emissions at Ports
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The head of the Federal Highway Administration said the vital role truckers play at ports is at the center of a $400 million grant program to help reduce emissions at facilities across the nation.
“We recognize the critical importance that truckers and freight play in the American economy and a lot of these [bipartisan infrastructure grant] efforts are hopefully helping them and the United States to make sure the critical supply chain challenges are met for the 21st century,” FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt told Transport Topics on April 26 in his first interview after the launch of a $400 million program aimed at lowering truck emissions at ports.
A total of $160 million in first-phase funds was opened April 27 for projects through FHWA’s Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program, which the U.S. Department of Transportation described as “one of several ways the Biden-Harris administration’s Investing in America agenda is investing billions of dollars in ports of all sizes to modernize their infrastructure, improve air quality and strengthen supply chains.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “When truckers spend hours idling at ports, it costs them time, takes money out of their pockets, and pollutes the air in nearby communities. The investments we are announcing today will save truck drivers time and money, help ports reduce congestion and emissions, and deliver better air quality for workers and communities alike.”
Eligible projects include those that develop port-related infrastructure and on-truck technologies to lower associated truck idling emissions there, use zero/low-emission powertrains or fuels, or decrease truck congestion within/adjacent to ports through enhanced intermodal rail connections.
Funds could also be used to help with port electrification efforts, such as adding charging stations and electrical hookups that trucks could use to power auxiliary electric power units, Bhatt said.
“We know there are already ports that are making steps toward electrification, but we know that upfront initial capital costs can be prohibitive,” he said. “We’d be willing to work with a port on the installation of the hookups so that if they’re worried about that initial upfront cost, the federal dollars are there to offset that.”
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In the grant notices, DOT said spikes in port-related trade during recent years have resulted in significant truck congestion inside and outside ports, as more trucks wait in line to offload goods. Trucks idling while queued up to enter a port can negatively impact surrounding air quality, the agency noted.
The grant program falls within President Joe Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure 40% of the overall benefits of some federal investments help disadvantaged communities affected by pollution.
“We want to work with the ports, but we also want to work with the communities and that’s why this is part of the Justice40 Initiative,” explained Bhatt, noting FHWA plans to help ensure “the communities that surround these ports — that are full of families and others — are not getting any harm from the fact that this port facility is sited in their neighborhood.”
He noted that while the new program is aimed specifically at ports, other federal investments in infrastructure, electrification and alternative fuels provide “an entire life cycle approach” to incentivize greater production of zero-emission vehicles.
Bhatt said, “We’re going to invest in the facilities, and then hopefully the manufacturers will provide the vehicles. We’re excited to learn from some of the best practices that are out there already, and hopefully help other ports and facilities become competitive for the 21st century.”
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The initial round of up to $160 million will come from combined fiscal year 2022 and 2023 funds. The application deadline is June 26, 2023.
Potential project locations include areas within or next to ports and intermodal port transfer facilities that ship freight between at least two transportation modes.
“Testing and evaluation projects can be conducted anywhere but must be focused on reducing truck emissions within or adjacent to ports and/or intermodal port transfer facilities,” FHWA said.
The agency expects to award 35 grants for projects, which will have a requirement for cost-sharing or matching contributions.