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MARAD Increases Funding 50 Percent for Marine Highway Program

MARAD increases funding to Marine Highway program
Barges on intercoastal and inland routes are one service that the program looks to support to reduce traffic on the roads (Seacor file photo)

Published May 2, 2022 5:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the continuing effort to increase investment into the U.S.’s maritime infrastructure, MARAD announced a better than 50 percent increase in funding for the 2022 grants to be awarded for America’s Marine Highway Program. The increase adds to the previously announced program which was already set to receive the largest single appropriation of funding provided for America’s Marine Highway Program. Established in 2007 to reduce landside congestion through the designation of marine highway routes, the program supports the development and expanded use of America’s navigable waterways.

MARAD announced in March 2022 plans to nearly double funding for the grants in 2022 to $25 million up from $12.6 million in grants awarded to nine marine highway projects in December 2021. Under the revised details of the program released last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) an additional $14.8 million is being added to the program for 2022. Total funding available for the America’s Marine Highway Program will now total $39.8 million. MARAD also extended the deadline for applicants to apply for funding to June 17, 2022. 

“We are making a once-in-a-generation investment in our ports and intermodal infrastructure to move goods faster, strengthen supply chain resiliency, and reduce the climate impacts of port operations,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

In addition to the increase in funding, in mid-April DOT designated new projects to expand the overall program. Added to the designated marine routes was the Kaskaskia River, the second-longest river in Illinois, which is used to ship bulk commodities of coal, scrubber stone, slag, grain, and scrap metal and is now expected to add 40,000-50,000 tons of unitized coil steel to be moved on this waterway. They also added a ferry service that transports both freight vehicles and passengers across Lake Michigan, and the Port of Umpqua in Oregon to a coastal barge route used to move goods between Washington, Oregon, and California.  They also added a designation to a route transporting containerized freight to and from Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. 

There are 54 marine highway projects designated under the program and 29 Marine Highway Routes. The America’s Marine Highway Program supports the increased use of the nation’s navigable waterways to relieve landside congestion, provide new and efficient transportation options, and increase the productivity of the surface transportation system. Since the first grants were awarded in 2010, the program has provided more than $51.7 million through competitive grants to implement projects or components of projects related to the marine highway.

Many of the projects in 2021 that received grants focused on expanding or improving barge services in locations ranging from New York to New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas as well as inland routes including the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Funding was also provided to a project sponsored by the Delaware River and Bay Authority to support the development of a plan for a new, modern, efficient, and cleaner ferryboat design to operate between Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey.