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In a move to relieve congested roadways, The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $4.8 million in grants to support the development of new container-on-barge services in Kentucky and Rhode Island and highways serving ports in Louisiana, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut. The grants, administered through the Maritime Administration (MARAD), will help advance the Marine Highway program, which uses 29,000 miles of navigable waterways, says the DOT.
"Strengthening the country's waterways and domestic seaports stimulates economic growth, reduces congestion and increases the efficiency of our national freight transportation system," says Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao.
The ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans will receive $2.5 million, the largest of the grants, to purchase marine terminal and handling equipment for efficient loading and unloading of container-on-barge operations in New Orleans.
The plan includes relocating empty containers in Memphis to meet export customer demand in Baton Rouge and expanding service to the New Orleans France Road terminal. This will allow containers to be offloaded as far north as Memphis.
"These marine highway grants will help expand freight movement on the water and modernize our inland ports and waterways," says MARAD Administrator, Mark Buzby. A Rhode Island state-sponsored company, Quonset Development Corporation, will receive over $855 for an 800-TEU barge service running between New York and New Jersey to Rhode Island. According to MARAD, the service is projected to annually remove over 83,000 containers and almost 15 million vehicular miles from the road.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation will receive a $300,000 grant to study how to increase shipping container movement by barge between New Jersey and New York terminals and beyond.
The James River Expansion Project, for which The Port of Virginia will receive $456,000, aims to move freight between the Hampton Roads and the Richmond Marine terminals.
The Connecticut Port Authority's ferry project across the Long Island Sound will get $503,000.
For its container-on-barge demonstration project, the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority will also receive $250,000.
While the grants will reduce the demand for long-haul trucking, it is hoped that truckers will experience quicker turnarounds and less congestion on the roads and at weigh stations. Not to mention more time with their families as a result.
In a separate announcement, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker introduced the Port Improvements Act, which will give the Department of Transportation further authority to award grants aimed at "improving the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods through ports and intermodal connections to ports."
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