July 7, 2016 10:00 AM, EDT

Maine Port in Line for $7.7 Million Fed Grant, to Double Capacity

PORTLAND, Maine — Federal transportation officials have selected the Port of Portland to receive $7.7 million for upgrades Maine’s congressional delegation said will double the output capacity for the port.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced July 6 that it picked the $15.4 million project as part of a program created in 2015 to fund freight rail and highway projects.

Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt said the funding will increase efficiency and productivity at the port, where Icelandic shipping company Eimskip relocated in 2013.

By weight, exports from the port of Portland were up 123% last year from 2013 and were up 207% by total value, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Indicators Division.

In a joint letter sent in April, Maine’s full congressional delegation said the project would “[build] on previous freight upgrades to double the output capacity for this important northeastern intermodal seaport, which is critical to trade with Canada and Northern Europe.”

Since the arrival of Eimskip, Maine trade officials have focused more attention on trade across the North Atlantic, opening the Maine North Atlantic Development Office. That office in June led a trade mission to Norway and Sweden.

The grant program included $800 million for the 2016 fiscal year, with 25% reserved for rural projects and 10% for smaller projects, according to federal transportation officials.

Sen. Susan Collins (D-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development, led passage of the bill funding the program before the full Senate. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office said the Maine Democrat's 1st District also supported full funding of the program in the House Appropriations Committee.

Offices for Collins and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said the $15.4 million in planned upgrades at the port include removing infill of the wharf, building a new maintenance and terminal operations facility, installing a new mobile harbor crane and other cargo-handling equipment and a highway and rail crossing upgrade.

After the announcement of winning projects, Congress has 60 days to reject a project through a joint resolution.