USA - Porcari outlines Biden Administration's initiatives to reduce port congestion
John Porcari, the Biden-Harris Administration’s Port Envoy, warned that long-standing shortfalls in U.S. infrastructure spending going back generations have created a reliance on an infrastructure “that our grandparents built.”
Porcari told an International Propeller Club of the United States audience via Zoom that a series of measures including $17 Billion in infrastructure bill funds for ports are part of the Biden Administration’s initiatives to reduce port congestion and supply chain disruptions.
In a White House briefing on January 5th Porcari stated:
“With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, some of the physical infrastructure upgrades to infrastructure that was built by your parents and grandparents can actually be updated through that infrastructure program.
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When bottlenecks emerge in the global supply chain, it can take more time for goods to reach store shelves, which can lead to price increases. That’s why the President has taken such aggressive action to alleviate these blockages, and we’ve seen significant progress.”
In his address to the Propeller Club on January 11th, Porcari noted:
- $17 Billion for U.S. ports. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help ports improve operations. He said the emphasis would be on port operations, cargo handling, upgrades to trucking and improving connections to rail service.
- Increased funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineering is needed. The funding is needed to support increased dredging for channel deepening and widening for coastal and inland ports.
- More investment in inland ports is necessary. The investment in inland river ports and for ports along the Great Lakes is necessary as these ports act as conduits for more imports and exports.
- The Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). PIDP can be a source of grant funding for port projects. New eligibility criteria will soon be announced. The Administration will reduce delays from the time grants are approved and funding provided. In December 2021, the U.S. Maritime Administration announced, “the award of more than $241 million in discretionary grant funding for 25 projects to improve port facilities in 19 states and one territory through the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP).”
- The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). TIFIA provides credit assistance for qualified projects of regional and national significance, that includes highway, transit, railroad, intermodal freight, and port access projects. Eligible applicants include state and local governments, transit agencies, railroad companies, special authorities, special districts, and private entities. Porcari noted that loan repayments for up to a 35-year repayment period are available. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allows up to 75 years for some projects, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Improving intermodal rail systems. There needs to be ways to “improve the handoff from maritime to rail.” The Class I railroads inland rail capacity needs improvement: “We shouldn’t have a couple of rail centers in Illinois and other places that can actually bring the whole system to its knees.”
- Increase inland rail/truck transfer sites. The increase of inland so-called ‘pop-up sites’ such as those connecting Georgia’s Port of Savannah are helping to relieve rail congestion at ports: “an intermodal transfer from rail to truck helps both imports and exports…and it’s a good way to create flex capacity.”