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MARAD Announces Largest Funding for Marine Highway Program Grants

doubling fnding for America's Marine Highway Program
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a previous trip to the Port of Los Angeles (POLA photo)

Published Mar 2, 2022 3:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

MARAD announced the largest single appropriation of funding ever provided for America’s Marine Highway Program, which supports the development and expanded use of America’s navigable waterways. The Biden administration is making $25 million available under the program for America’s coastal and inland waterways. They are more than doubling the funding awarded in December 2021 under the program that was established in 2007 to reduce landside congestion through the designation of marine highway routes.

“America’s waterways are a vital means for getting goods onto our shelves and into our homes,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Thanks to these investments, and others like them in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we can help create jobs, reduce delays, and strengthen our critical supply chains for decades to come.” 

To be eligible for a grant award, a project must have previously been designated as a Marine Highway Project by the Secretary of Transportation. 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. The purpose of the program is to make funds available to projects that support the development and expansion of documented vessels or port and landside infrastructure. The Department of Transportation said that it is also seeking eligible grant projects that will strengthen American supply chains. Applications for the grants are due on April 29, 2022.

The increase in funding for the program was made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which will make a $1.2 trillion investment in the nation’s infrastructure. In addition to the additional funding for this program, last week the Biden administration announced that it would also double funding to $450 million in grants from the 2022 Port Infrastructure Development Program, which funds projects that improve the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods into, out of, around, or within a port. At the end of 2021, they also announced additional funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects devoted to ports, waterways, repairs from environmental damage, and projects to address the impacts of climate change.

“This historic funding for the Marine Highways program will expand waterborne transportation options while helping project sponsors increase energy conservation, improve safety, reduce landside infrastructure costs, and reduce travel delays caused by congestion. This investment will also create well-paying maritime jobs,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.  

In December 2021, MARAD awarded $12.6 million in grants to nine marine highway projects. 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.