New Funding to Help Ports Realize Infrastructure Projects

Ports + Politics

For years “Infrastructure Week” has been a running joke in Washington. “It is really going to happen this week?” was a common refrain. Well, the wait is finally over, and no one is joking anymore. On November 15, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law. The bill was initially drafted by a group of senators from both political parties and after months of negotiation and wrangling, the $1.2 trillion bill is now law. Thanks to the tireless efforts of AAPA staff and members, this legislation contains nearly $6 billion dollars dedicated for ports with over $30 billion more that ports will be eligible to compete for alongside other modes of transportation.

As ports and their partners make plans for 2022, we wanted to give insight into what this bill means for ports and how you can best take advantage of this new funding.

The crown jewel of grants for ports is the Port Infrastructure Development Program or PIDP. This program is set up to fund infrastructure improvements, equipment modernization and cargo processing expansion at port authorities. Under IIJA, PIDP will be given a total of $2.25 billion over five years on top of Congress’ regular annual spending. All told, this means over a three-fold increase in PIDP dollars will be available to ports. At a time when ports are in the news almost daily, this level of investment will be critical to addressing supply chain congestion in the medium and long term. The Biden Administration is eager to push out this money quickly so check your inboxes for more information from AAPA on how to apply and more project parameters.

On the waterside, AAPA estimates that $2.7 billion will flow to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its Coastal Navigation Program. This includes funding for both ‘Operations & Maintenance’ as well as new construction. This will allow the Corps to work through its backlog of projects to deepen, widen and maintain navigation channels. As ocean carriers make their decisions about ports of call, these projects are vital to maintaining the flow of goods into and out of the U.S.

In addition to making investments in ports and waterways themselves, IIJA also contains billions of dollars to improve freight mobility throughout the supply chain. The INFRA (formerly FASTLANE) and RAISE (formerly TIGER/BUILD) grant programs are guaranteed a combined $20.5 billion. These programs can be used for roads, bridges and other multimodal projects that connect ports to the rest of the country. Freight rail will also get significant investment through CRISI, with $5 billion directed to that program.

Resiliency and reducing emissions are core tenets of President Biden’s agenda. As such, IIJA contains several new programs designed to tackle those challenges. A new port truck idling program – funded at $250 million – will provide grants to study and reduce emissions caused by trucks waiting at ports for cargo pickups and drop offs. Grants for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure will provide $2.5 billion for states, municipalities and port authorities to build and maintain electric vehicle charging stations or alternative fueling stations. Resiliency will be addressed through the new PROTECT program, which will make grants to increase weather, climate and natural disaster resilience of infrastructure. This effort is funded at $1.4 billion with 10% set aside specifically for coastal infrastructure.

Taken together, this means we are on the brink of historic investments in our transportation infrastructure with ports rightfully recognized as key players in cargo movement. And we’re not quite done yet. As Congress continues work on the Build Back Better Act, ports may be looking at billions more in additional investment.

So, if you haven’t already, start thinking about how your port can best use these investments and be on the lookout for updates from AAPA as the Administration gets ready to distribute this funding.

Happy Infrastructure Week!