- Six marine highway projects across the U.S. will collectively receive $4.87 million in grants from the Maritime Administration.
- One of the goals of the grants is to reduce and relieve landside congestion, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao said in a press release.
- The largest grant is worth about $2.5 million and goes to the Port of Baton Rouge and Port of New Orleans Container-on-Barge project.
With the DOT awarding millions for marine highway projects, it sees the potential of inland waterways to relieve congestion on roadways and get shipments to their destinations quickly and efficiently.
Roads in the U.S. are becoming more congested, as auto sales have surpassed 17 million for three years in a row, and public transit ridership in cities is declining due to decreased satisfaction. In addition, the popularity of ride-sharing services has resulted in a 180% increase in driving on city streets.
At an influencer roundtable hosted by the American Association of Port Authorities this month, port and government officials lamented passenger traffic on roadways has hampered freight traffic, creating delays for trucks to move goods efficiently.
"Marine Highways provide new modal choices to cargo shippers," the Maritime Administration (MARAD) stated in its release. With trucking capacity squeezed, some shippers have sought alternative transit modes such as rail to ship their goods.
Enhanced development of internal waterways and domestic ports would result in another option for shippers to transport their cargo. As it stands currently, however, marine highways, are in poor shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave inland waterways a D grade for infrastructure. About half the vessels passing through the waterways experienced delays due to poor conditions.
While $4.9 million in grants may be a start to improving inland waterway conditions, ASCE estimates marine highways will need investments of $4.9 billion over the next 20 years.