Transcript: Remarks at the Paducah Chamber Fly-In by Deputy MA Lucinda Lessley
Remarks of Lucinda Lessley
Deputy Maritime Administrator
At the Paducah Chamber Fly-In
Capitol Visitors Center in Room CVC-217
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Thank you, Sandra, for the warm introduction. On behalf of the US Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join you today.
INTRODUCTION TO THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION
For those of you who may not be as familiar with the Maritime Administration – or MARAD, our mission is to foster, promote, and develop the maritime industry of the United States to meet the nation’s economic and security needs.
Among our many duties, we facilitate federal investments in America’s ports and waterways.
And this has been an extraordinary time at MARAD and, of course, throughout the Department of Transportation.
As you know, the Biden-Harris Administration has been committed from Day One to modernizing our infrastructure.
The President’s commitment has resulted in a once-in-a-generation investment in our ports and intermodal infrastructure to strengthen supply chain resiliency and to reduce the climate impacts of port operations.
Frankly, these investments could not have come a more critical time.
Record volumes of cargo have and continue to move through our Nation’s ports
We thank the many professionals throughout our supply chains to include the inland waterways, Paducah and at ports around the nation, on the river, on the rails, in trucks and at our warehouses—who have met this challenge.
However, despite the herculean efforts of industry partners, these record volumes have been moving on generations-old infrastructure.
Now, thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, over the next five years, the Department of Transportation will award billions—billions with a “B”—of dollars in funding to modernize our ports and waterways.
Ports are now eligible for funding under several of the Department’s major infrastructure grant programs—RAISE and INFRA—and, of course, under the Port Infrastructure Development Program and the America’s Marine Highways program. Today, I want to talk briefly about these many investment opportunities.
Let me start with the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program that has replaced the formed BUILD program of which Paducah was a BUILD award recipient in Fiscal Year 2019 funded at $10.4 million.
RAISE provides support to help communities advance projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit and rail systems, ports, and intermodal transportation networks.
The total amount of funding available under the RAISE program this year was $2.275 billion—the majority of which comes from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
On August 11, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Biden-Harris Administration had awarded RAISE funding to more than 160 projects nationwide. Half of the money was designated for projects in rural areas and half was designated for urban areas. Nearly two-thirds of the projects are located in areas of persistent poverty or historically disadvantaged communities.
Ten of the 160 projects awarded are port projects.
• For example, the Port of Tampa received $12.6 million to help construct a new berth of approximately 3,000-linear-feet capable of simultaneously docking three dry bulk/multi-purpose cargo vessels. Secretary Buttigieg visited the Port just a few weeks ago to see first-hand the impact this grant will make.
• And the North Carolina State Ports Authority received $18 million to help construct a state-of-the-art area for loading and discharging containers on and off rail at the Port of Wilmington.
All told, ten port projects that received funding under the RAISE program were awarded more than $158 million in federal funds and have committed more than $93 million in matching funds.
And the RAISE program is just one of the DOT programs investing in ports.
MULTIMODAL PROJECT DISCRETIONARY GRANT PROGRAM
This year, the Department issued a new single notice of funding opportunity known as the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant Program or “MPDG.”
The purpose of the MPDG is to reduce the workload on applicants and increase the pipeline of eligible projects made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure law by enabling entities seeking funding to submit one application and have it considered under three different programs:
• the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or “INFRA;”
• the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grant program, known as “MEGA;” and
• the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program.
The MPDG can provide Federal financial assistance to a wide range of projects that will improve freight movement, including marine highways, as well as multi-modal projects and projects of national and regional significance.
The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the MPDG was published on March 25, 2022, and applications were due in mid-May. Funding for this overall program is $2.8 billion. Applications are still under review and awards anticipated by the end of the calendar year.
Just last Thursday, the Secretary announced the award of 26 INFRA projects of which 12 were Small INFRA awards and 14 were Large INFRA awards totaling $1.5 Billion. Noteworthy for us there were two maritime port projects selected – Port Manatee in Florida and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority in Pennsylvania.
PORT INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Within DOT, the Maritime Administration is responsible for awarding more than $2 billion over the next five years in funding appropriated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure law through our Port Infrastructure Development Program.
To put this figure in perspective, the funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for PIDP alone is roughly the same amount of money that had been invested in ports by all DOT grant programs prior to the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law since the DOT began investing in ports with the 2009 Recovery Act.
On February 23, 2022, Secretary Buttigieg announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the first round of funding for PIDP provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This NOFO was released just three months after the law was enacted—ensuring that we could begin to get money out the door and to work in our ports as quickly as possible.
The first round of PIDP funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law totals $450 million—an investment that is almost double the amount provided last year and is the largest single investment in the program ever.
And an additional $234 million dollars was provided for the PIDP program in Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations, bringing the total amount of funding available this year to more than $680 million.
Investments supported by PIDP 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 are also expected to explain whether and how proposed projects address environmental justice impacts and advance equity among other criteria.
Applications for PIDP funding were due in May—and we anticipate announcing awards in the Fall. This grant program is a great program for Inland Waterways ports and terminals as there is an ability for Small Projects at Small Ports for this fiscal year that under $11.4 million do not have the requirement to produce a BCA or Benefit Cost Analysis that at times can be difficult for smaller ports without dedicated grant staff.
As many of you know, the Paducah Riverport was awarded a PIDP Grant in Fiscal Year 2021 for a Small Projects at Small Ports of $3.32 million for the Bulk Yard Infrastructure Revitalization and Expansion Project.
AMERICA’S MARINE HIGHWAY PROGRAM
Another terrific program for inland industry stakeholders is the America’s Marine Highway program. We at the Department are making historic investments to support increased utilization of our nation’s inland and near coastal waterways to move freight.
The America’s Marine Highway Program is thriving. There are currently 29 Marine Highway Routes reaching 41 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories, and there are currently 56 Designated Marine Highway Projects.
Since 2010, the Marine Highways program has made 44 awards totaling approximately $51.7 million to 25 Designated Marine Highway Projects.
On March 2, 2022, the Maritime Administration announced the availability of $25 million in new funding for the America’s Marine Highways program.
This is the largest single appropriation of funding in the program’s history—and it was also made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
And here too, the FY2022 appropriations measure increased funding—adding $14.8 million to the Marine Highway program, bringing the total amount of funding available under this program to $40 million. We anticipate announcing these awards soon.
To date, the Paducah Riverport has taken advantage of the program and I understand is currently working on additional freight opportunities that are eligible commodities for the program.
I wanted to take just a few minutes to thank the Paducah Chamber and Members for their ongoing interaction and support of the Maritime Administration’s priorities and programs.
For those that are new or may not be aware, the Maritime Administration had chosen Paducah as the second Inland Waterways Gateway office location four years ago.
Paducah was the top choice after the comprehensive study was completed that included five other riverport cities and is considered by many as the Hub of the Inland River Industry.
Our Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had mentioned to the inland port and waterways community that the Department of Transportation recognizes the importance of the Inland Waterways and that the Paducah Gateway Office, staffed by Chad Dorsey is eager and happy to discuss ideas or help to navigate and educate stakeholders on Federal Grant and Financing opportunities.
Most of you may know that the Inland Waterways Gateway Office is conveniently located on the second floor of the Commerce Center and is located there ideally to be close to the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Paducah Economic Development, Congressional staff and regional inland stakeholders.
The Gateway Office of Paducah represents a nine-state territory adjacent to the inland system and is primarily concerned with shallow draft inland marine transportation, inland ports, inland intermodal issues and inland marine security.
The office also works closely with inland ports to assist them in both short- and long-term planning efforts to ensure that they will have the capability to handle intermodal transfers of commodities now and in the future as future potential modal shift may increase freight on our Nation’s valuable but underutilized asset.
MARAD certainly recognizes the importance of Paducah as an essential hub of the inland waterways at the confluence of four rivers.
With that in mind, I did want to mention that next week we will be holding an inland waterways focused meeting bringing our Associate Administrator, Bill Paape and our Inland Waterways, and Great Lakes Gateway Directors to Paducah to meet with key stakeholders regarding furthering our efforts on inland waterways freight development and planning.
Getting back to the once in a lifetime infrastructure investment in our ports, inland waterways stakeholders and our Nation that thanks to President Biden’s leadership, we are now able to make the investments that will create the modern transportation system our nation needs to speed the movement of freight—supporting continued economic growth and ensuring that we can meet consumers’ demands.
I thank you for the opportunity to discuss these investments, and I encourage you to be in touch with MARAD through our local gateway offices to learn more about grant opportunities.
I do have time for a few questions and/or the opportunity to hear what Paducah is planning as it relates to infrastructure funding though USDOT funding programs.