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Transcript: Remarks at National Association of Black Women in Construction Billion Dollar Luncheon in Port Opportunities

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

REMARKS AS DELIVERED
LUCINDA LESSLEY, ACTING MARITIME ADMINISTRATOR
NABWIC BILLION DOLLAR LUNCHEON IN PORT OPPORTUNITIES
APRIL 13, 2022

 
Thank you to Kimle Nailer, President of NABWIC and everyone at NABWIC for inviting me to join you today. On behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, I am very pleased to be a part of this event.  I also thank you for all that you are doing to open the doors of opportunity in the construction industry.

The Maritime Administration’s mission is to foster, promote, and develop the maritime industry of the United States to meet the nation’s economic and security needs. We support our nation’s mariners, we shepherd federal investments in our ports and waterways, we own and operate sealift vessels essential to U.S. national security, and we train the next generation of the maritime workforce.
 
I have had the honor of serving as the Acting Maritime Administrator for more than a year now, and without question, it has been a year of extraordinary moments. 
 
The Biden-Harris Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Maritime Administration are invested in making the long overdue changes essential to strengthen our U.S. merchant marine and transform our ports and freight networks.
 
This work is urgent precisely because our merchant marine and our supply chains are vital to our economic and national security.
 
Further, recent events have made clear how urgent it is that we strengthen the resiliency of our ports and intermodal goods movement chains.
 
We need 21st century port and supply chain infrastructure to meet 21st century needs, and under President Biden’s leadership, we are poised to build now to meet that need.  
 
And as we build new infrastructure to improve cargo flow through our ports, we will also continue to support and promote our domestic Jones Act capabilities to ease congestion, in an environmentally responsible manner, so that we can take greater advantage of maritime transportation options.
 
PIDP/AMHP
 
Well before the pandemic, many recognized the need to reinvest in America’s infrastructure, including the ports, roads, and rails that provide our freight movement capability. Under President Biden, these investments will be a reality. 

Under the President’s leadership, we are making a once-in-a-generation investment in our ports and intermodal infrastructure to speed the throughput of goods, to strengthen supply chain resiliency, and to reduce the climate impacts of port operations.
 
Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, years of mere talk about building new infrastructure have ended and a decade of actual infrastructure development has begun. 
 
And the Maritime Administration is responsible for awarding more than $2 billion in funding appropriated by the law through our Port Infrastructure Development Program. 

To put this figure in perspective, this is roughly the same amount of money that has been invested in ports by all DOT grant programs since the DOT began investing in ports with the 2009 Recovery Act.  

And we will get this money out the door in just 5 years.

On February 23, 2022, Secretary Buttigieg announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the first round of funding for PIDP funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  This first round totals $450 million—an investment that is almost double the amount provided last year and is the largest single investment in the program ever.
 
These investments will help build new capacity at ports around the United States, improve cargo throughput, and eliminate bottlenecks to reduce the time and cost of shipping goods.  

And, in keeping with the priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration, applications will also be expected to explain whether and how proposed projects address environmental justice impacts and advance equity. 
 
These projects will also augment national and regional economic vitality by supporting the creation of good-paying jobs.
 
And I’m also pleased to announce that the appropriations measure just passed by Congress—the first enacted under President Biden—provides an additional $234 million dollars for the PIDP program, bringing the total amount of funding available this year to more than $680 million.

Applications for PIDP funding are due before midnight on May 16—and I encourage all U.S. ports to consider applying.
 
We’re also making historic investments to support increased utilization of our nation’s inland and near coastal waterways to move freight. 

In February, DOT released a comprehensive report on the nation’s supply chains that recommended near and longer-term actions to further enhance fluidity through our supply chains. We identified that inland waterways are operating at a fraction of capacity and could assist in easing supply chain and congestion issues affecting other modes and impacting economic growth. 

In 2018, the U.S. moved about 9.4% of freight, in ton-miles, by water.  By comparison, in 2018 the European Union transported 34.2% of its freight by water. 

The Maritime Administration implements a program called the America’s Marine Highway Program intended specifically to expand the use of our inland and near-coastal waterways so we can create jobs, reduce delays, and strengthen critical links in our supply chain.  

Last December, through the program, we awarded $12.6 million in grants to nine marine highway projects across the Nation.
 
On March 2, 2022, the Maritime Administration announced the availability of $25 million in new funding for the America’s Marine Highways program.  This funding—which is the largest single appropriation of funding in the program’s history—was also made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
 
Here too the first appropriations measure enacted under President Biden is also expanding funding, providing another $14.8 million for the America’s Marine Highway program, bringing the total amount of funding available under this program to $40 million.
 
The America’s Marine Highway Program is thriving and now includes 54 Projects and 29 Routes.  Those routes encompass 41 states, the District of Columbia, and all five U.S. territories.  These projects are eligible to apply for the available funding under the Marine Highway Program.
 
Put simply, President Biden is leading the largest-ever federal investment in modernizing our country’s ports—and our domestic coastwise services—and improving both our supply chains and the lives of Americans who depend on them.  This is truly an extraordinary moment.

These investments will create unprecedented construction all around our nation’s ports, and I encourage you to be in touch with any questions or concerns.
 
As I close, I want to thank you again for inviting me today. We appreciate your support and your leadership.