Port NOLA Project Gets $226 Million in Federal Grant
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WASHINGTON — The planned $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal project in St. Bernard Parish, which is to consist of a new container port that can handle ships too large to fit under the Crescent City Connection, was awarded a $226 million grant Jan. 22 from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The new money, which was awarded from the Infrastructure For Rebuilding America competitive grant program, known as INFRA, comes a month after the port got about $74 million from the federal Mega Grant program. It means the project now has most of its funding in place.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of a handful of Republicans involved in the negotiations and passage of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill that provided the money, touted the award.
“This money to build a new terminal in the Port of New Orleans is good for commerce, good for jobs, and good for coastal communities,” Cassidy said Jan. 22. “Because I had a seat at the table for the infrastructure law, Louisiana is punching above its weight in the funding coming to our state.”
The project also got the backing of Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.), who also championed the passage of the measure. Carter said Jan. 22, “This grant funding is a historic step towards transforming the economic landscape of Louisiana and solidifying our position as the premier international Gulf gateway.”
The new facility is being spearheaded by the Port of New Orleans, or Port NOLA, a state entity, and has wide backing from state and city leaders. The port’s current container facility, near Napoleon Avenue in Uptown New Orleans, is upriver of the bridge and thus can’t accommodate some large ships.
“Not only is this the biggest economic development grant in Louisiana history, but also the largest federal investment in a new container terminal in USDOT history,” Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy Christian said in a prepared statement. “We are incredibly honored to receive this landmark grant award, which underscores decades of site and market analysis and reflects the recognition of our transformational project on a global scale.”
While popular among state and city economic development leaders, the project has been very controversial in St. Bernard Parish, whose leaders have sued to block it and recently released a new consulting report raising questions about the location in Violet, La.
The St. Bernard Parish Council was to meet on Jan. 25 to vote to reaffirm their commitment to try to block the LIT project. New members of the council were elected last year pledging their support to the residents opposed to the terminal.
St. Bernard officials say they fear traffic from the massive new facility will overwhelm the parish, though plans call for new transportation links to Interstate 10 that aim to keep trucks off local roadways.
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Despite the local pushback, Port NOLA now has passed several major milestones, having acquired the 1,200 acres at Violet three years ago and carried out a long process of community engagement.
The port last year said it had inked an $800 million public-private partnership deal with New Jersey-based Ports America and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company through its terminal development and investment arm Terminal Investment Limited.
It has already received $39 million in state funds toward early design and engineering work, as well as a $50 million commitment for the St. Bernard Transportation Corridor. That will entail building roads to connect the terminal with the interstate system through New Orleans East and is a crucial component so that thousands of trucks wouldn’t have to rely on St. Bernard’s already crowded two main highways.
“This additional investment will leverage Port NOLA’s extensive connectivity to interstate systems, railroads, waterways, and hubs,” Carter’s statement added Jan. 18.
Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-La.) also has publicly supported the terminal and has earmarked $15 million for the project in the security bill that is currently being negotiated in Congress.
The project will include approximately 1,700 feet of wharf, two ramps to connect the wharf to the container yard, an automated stacking crane yard, utilities, storm drainage, all necessary buildings for operations, entry and exit gates, intermodal rail yard, realignment of the Norfolk Southern rail and realignment of St. Bernard Highway.
Staff writer Anthony McAuley contributed to this report.
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