California to Fund $1.2B in Port Improvement Projects in 2023 and 2024

California port investment modernization
California will fund $1.2 billion in port project directing 70% of the funds to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (file photo)

Published Oct 13, 2022 5:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Citing the need for long-term investment in the state’s ports and multimodal transport system, California is launching a program to invest $1.2 billion into its ports and transportation infrastructure over the next two years. The California State Transportation Agency issued the final guidelines and a call for projects as the next step in an initiative launched by the state’s governor in 2021.

“California’s ports are critical to exporting and importing goods both abroad and throughout the United States,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “After decades of neglect, we are finally making the critical investments needed to modernize our ports – helping us to keep up with demand in a way that is environmentally sustainable and brings our distribution process into the 21st Century.”

At the height of the backlog at California’s seaports, Governor Newsom issued an executive order directing the state’s agencies to work together for both short and long-term improvements in the supply chain. The short-term efforts included relaxing requirements for truckers’ driving licenses, opening additional storage yards, and improving port access. Now, with the backlog having declined, the governor says the focus needs to turn to long-term supply chain improvements for port and freight infrastructure projects to build a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient goods movement system.

Finalized in the state budget at the end of June, the Port and Freight Infrastructure Program aims to make long-term upgrades that will increase the capacity to move goods throughout the state while lessening environmental impacts on neighboring communities. According to the final program guidelines released on October 12, the Port and Freight Infrastructure Program seeks to improve the capacity, safety, efficiency, and resilience of goods movement to, from, and through California’s maritime ports, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, public health impacts, and negative economic impacts to communities adjacent to the corridors and facilities used for goods movement. The program seeks to promote high-road port, freight, and construction sector jobs for improvements that are critical to enhancing and modernizing the multimodal freight transportation system, transitioning to zero-emission freight transportation, and growing the economic competitiveness of California’s freight sector.

Seventy percent of the program funding will go to projects that support goods movement through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach while 30 percent will fund ports and goods movement infrastructure in the rest of the state. Among the types of projects they expect to support are port-specific initiatives including intermodal railyard expansion and electrification, goods movement railway corridor capacity projects, and demonstration projects for zero-emission goods movement.

Project applications are due January 13, 2023, and the funding awards are expected in March 2023. The total value of the program will be awarded in 2023 with the funding equally divided between California’s 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 state budgets.