WASHINGTON — The federal government opened its wallet to ports this week, giving them a larger-than-ever share of a $585 million competitive grant program.
Awards from the discretionary program — dubbed TIGER II after the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program created by the stimulus law — were announced Wednesday by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Ports competed for the grants against road, bridge, rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian proposals from urban as well as rural areas. Competition was fierce; the U.S. Department of Transportation said it received more than 1,000 applications for projects totaling $19 billion.
Despite the intense competition, ports walked away with 16% of the pot, or about twice the share they received from the original $1.5 billion TIGER program.
“Traditionally, the DOT has not been one that we saw a lot of that money from, because so much of that money is controlled at the state level,” said Susan Monteverde, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities. “Without this money, I think the ports would have to go to other sources and delay some of these projects.”
Ports were awarded $95 million and port-related projects won $54 million for capital improvements and construction that is projected to cost $368 million and $231 million, respectively.
A couple of applicants will have almost the entire cost of their projects covered by the grants, which for ports were in the $10-20 million range.
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay received $13.6 million toward a $14.6 million project to rehabilitate a 133-mile rail link that closed in 2007. The rehab will revive shipping activity in the area, the U.S. DOT said.
The Tennessee DOT received a $13 million grant to build a port and harbor facility on the Mississippi River that’s expected to cost $16 million. It will be the deepest port between Baton Rouge and St. Louis. More than $33 million has already been spent to create the harbor channel and improve access roads, according to the U.S. DOT.
Other recipients focused on freight-movement projects such as rail improvements. The Port of Los Angeles won $16 million for a $125.8 million intermodal railyard with tracks connecting docks with the Alameda Corridor, a railyard for a short-line train, and the removal of two rail-highway crossings.
The Port of Vancouver, Wash., received $10 million for completion of a $92.9 million rail-access project with enough storage to accommodate several trains with more than 170 rail cars. Miami-Dade County received $22.8 million to develop a $47 million Port of Miami railway access project, fix and rebuild rail and bridge connections, and create an intermodal container-rail transfer facility.
Providence will use its $10.5 million grant for a $39.5 million expansion and upgrade of the Port of Providence. The port also plans to add wind turbines and solar panels to power the facility.
The Port Manatee Marine Highway project in Florida received $9 million to build 20 acres of a 32-acre container terminal. That project is expected to cost $32 million.