- The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a slate of grants aimed at improving infrastructure, safety, technology and efficiency at U.S. ports and rail hubs Wednesday. Grants for the Port Infrastructure Development Program total $292.7 million and grants for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program total $326 million.
- "This major investment in the Port Infrastructure Development Program will help strengthen, modernize, and improve our country’s maritime systems and gateway ports," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a press release. In a separate release, the secretary said the additional "investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability."
- These grants are in line with Secretary Chao's May 2019 launch of a $900 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program. The program awards funding for surface transportation improvements that focus on "roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation," particularly in rural areas.
The need for greater infrastructure investment in the U.S. has been a perennial issue at both the public and private sector levels. Beyond the necessity of safe, modern infrastructure to a thriving economy, basic infrastructure upgrades are also critical to innovation in the freight and logistics industries.
The 2019 Port Infrastructure Development Program, makes a total of $292.7 million of funding available for projects focusing on "technology supported safety, design efficiency improvements," and promoting trade and exports. $92.7 million of this funding is reserved for the 15 busiest U.S. ports based on 2016 volumes. These are:
- Port of Los Angeles
- Port of Long Beach
- Port of New York and New Jersey
- Port of Savannah
- Port of Virginia
- Port of Houston
- Port of Oakland
- Port of Tacoma
- Port of Charleston
- Port of Seattle
- Port of Jacksonville
- Port of Miami
- Port Everglades
- Port of San Juan (PR)
- Port of Honolulu
Ports in the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles and Long Beach have been particularly plagued by congestion issues as growth in container traffic and trade uncertainty have exacerbated aging infrastructure and capacity shortages. Because ports and railroads form key intersections for freight transfers, many upcoming railroad investments are concentrated in coastal areas as well.
The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program's $326 million grant focuses on a broad range of projects across inner-city rail, major freight corridors, safety improvements, and reactivating old lines across the country, particularly at rail hubs in California, Florida, Louisiana and the Midwest.