White House Stakeholder Briefing: Ports and Waterways

February 15, 2022


Ryan Berni, Senior Advisor, Infrastructure Implementation

A few weeks ago, the White House released a guidebook for state and local governments as a resource for stakeholders and is intended to be a roadmap, and it contains the most comprehensive information to date on the more than 375 programs in the bipartisan infrastructure law. President Biden and the entire team have made it a priority to make sure that we’re giving everyone all the resources needed to make sure that this money hits the ground and reaches all corners of this country.

Stephanie Sykes, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure Implementation

The guidebook is available on the website Build.gov and there are over 12 chapters that cover the major topics of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA). In the guidebook, in addition to the chapters, a one page detailed summary about each program is included. That one-page resource provides a wealth of information. First, an individuals can find information on what department administers that grant. In addition, what the funding mechanism is, and whether it is a competitive grant.

Kathryn Thompson, Director, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Department of Transportation

DOT has more than $660 billion provided in the bill over five years, across all modes of transportation. Today’s conversation is focused on the ports and waterways programs. The IIJA focuses on the supply chain disruptions, but also addresses investing and economic growth and prosperity across America from the most rural areas to urban areas as well.

Robert Bouchard, Director, Office of Port Infrastructure Development at Maritime Administration

The port infrastructure development program, which has now received funding over the next five years of $2.25 billion or $450 million each year for the next five years, and the program is funded through competitive grants. The program is an existing program that has been underway for a few years, and the recipients, under this program are public and private ports and port authorities. The grants are for investing in the modernization and expansion of US ports to remove bottlenecks, ensure long-term competitiveness, resiliency, and sustainability while reducing impacts to the environment, the neighboring communities. The eligible uses of grants and projects include extreme weather events, earthquakes, and tsunamis as well as projects that reduce or eliminate court-related criteria or greenhouse gas emissions. Projects can also include port electrification or electrification master planning harbor craft or equipment replacements for retrofits development of port for terminal microgrids, providing idling reduction infrastructure, purchase of cargo handling equipment, and related infrastructure worker training to support electrification technology, and other infrastructure related to ports and electrification of ports.

The other program highlighted is the America’s Marine Highway Program, which is on page 114 of the guidebook. The American Marine highways program has received $25 million or under this program that’s good for 10 years and there again the American marine highway is a less competitive program. In the description is grants for this program are to develop and expand marine highway service options and facilities further integration into the current US surface transportation system, especially where water-based transport is the most efficient, effective, and sustainable option.

Eligible uses of the grants and before material handling container handling equipment such as reach stackers, cranes or forklifts, as well as for an improvement such as lighting will lay down areas and also funds have been used for dredging in non-federal navigation channels and pier-side locations, meant for vessels the funds can be used to purchase, lease, or improve or modify vessels documented per the legislation.

Hari Kalia, Associate Administrator for Infrastructure, Federal Highway Administration

There is a program that funds the construction of boats and paid boat terminals. This program is not new, but the funding has been expanded which is $905 million over 5 years. The program is a formula grant program which means that the funding distribution is based on a formula. This program has very broad eligibility. For example, the ferry operators can use this funding to replace and acquire new buy boats replace the propulsion systems with newer cleaner, and more energy-efficient systems.

Morteza Farajian, Executive Director, Build America Bureau

Build America Bureau is the one-stop-shop within the bureau that provides a couple of financing options mainly. One of them is called the transportation infrastructure finance and Innovation Act of 1998, and the other one is railroad rehabilitation improvement financing. The loans are low-interest rates, and the treasury rates are used, and currently, the payments for a 30-year loan are around 2.25%. The legislation has expanded the authority of the bureau, and this includes more port projects that are now deemed eligible.


Thompson asked if there are these reimbursable grants or will the entity receive the funds directly. Staff answered that all the grant programs have merit as they are reimbursable which means receipts must submit invoices. After a grant agreement and completion, recipients will be reimbursed for a properly submitted invoice.

Thompson asked if infrastructure funds can be used to remediate the port or airport impact on the non-port property. Staff answered that as of right now, entities must submit a project that’s within the framework of the criteria. It was added that the belief is that particular type of project would not be eligible at this present time.

Thompson asked how private entities can benefit from port grants. Staff answered that under the FY22 Port Grant’s eligible entities are Port Authority emission for its subdivision or agent under existing authority, state or political subdivision of a state or local government. For an Indian tribe, a public agency or publicly chartered authority established by one or more states, a special purpose district with transportation functions a multi-state or multi-jurisdictional group of entities for one of these entities as a lead entity, a jointly with a private agency or a group or private entities which can include the owners or operators have a facility for a collection of facilities.

Thompson asked how equity is considered in the programs and grants that have been described. Staff answered that providing these projects with low-interest rate financing frees up some of the cash for projects, to help with financing and hopefully, include other elements of the project that would enhance equity.

Thompson asked how the Buy American Act applies across these, these programs and what, what should Africans to be thinking about pens they’re contemplating submitting applications. Staff answered that there are multiple parts to this because there’s buy America and buy American, and unfortunately, within BMT, each mode has a slightly different version of that. Under the Maritime Administration, there is the buy American, which means that basically, every item that’s being purchased must meet that requirement. Further, anybody who applying or receiving these funds needs to pay attention to Buy America requirements, and so kind of challenge themselves to maximize the U.S.-made goods and services. But the short answer is that primary care does apply to these programs.