US ports and inland waterways are on track to receive at least $11.8 billion in new federal funding over the next five years through a $1 trillion infrastructure bill Congress aims to finalize over the coming weeks, reports Mark Szakonyi, Executive Editor of The Journal of Commerce and JOC.COM.
The Senate began voting on amendments to the bill Monday, but it is unclear when the chamber will take a final vote. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders last week agreed to end a filibuster and begin debating the legislation. The White House wanted the bill to provide $17 billion over the next five years for ports and waterways.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, comprised of $550 billion in new spending over the next five years on top of existing funding levels for public transit and highway construction, would provide $5.15 billion for port and inland waterway navigational projects and $4 billion for operations and maintenance, according to an analysis by AAPA. That funding could help guarantee that the federal government delivers its share toward major navigational projects for ports like Houston, Mobile, Jacksonville, and other ports pursuing deepening and widening projects.
The set spending levels of the bill would go beyond annual baselines for US Army Corps project funding, according to AAPA. The bill would also earmark $25 million for so-called marine highways plied by container-on-barge service, and provide $400 million in entirely new grants for ports to reduce truck emissions.
There is also the opportunity for ports and inland waterways to tap funding through other projects that are not just open to port applicants. There’s some $16.7 billion in funding through programs giving awards toward rail improvements and flood mitigation projects that could be tapped in addition to the port-specific programs.
The funding for seaports is a “great start,” creating momentum for more private investment in marine terminals and supporting infrastructure, Chris Connor, president of AAPA, told JOC.com Monday. Citing the needs of its member ports and American Society of Civil Engineer estimates, Connor told the Biden administration in May that US ports needed an additional $42 billion over the next five years.
Months of US port congestion that began building in Southern California in the summer of 2020 before expanding to nearly every major gateway has galvanized federal government and Congressional attention to the need for stronger port infrastructure spending. That may have helped protect seaport funding levels within the infrastructure bill, even as the scope of the total spending bill has shrunk by one-third from $3 trillion. (Photo Port of Long Beach)