The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (Marad) announced Tuesday the designation of a new marine highway route, two new marine highway projects, and one project designation extension as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP).

While focusing on supply chain efficiency will have nationwide effects, the states of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California, and Oregon will receive new routes, designations, or extensions. 

AMHP supports the increased use of U.S. navigable waterways to relieve landside congestion, provide new and efficient transportation options, and increase the productivity of the surface transportation system, Marad said. By working closely with public and private organizations, AMHP helps create and sustain U.S. jobs in U.S. ports, on vessels, and at shipyards, while also improving supply chains, according to Marad. 

“Investments in the America’s Marine Highway Program help us move more goods more quickly and more efficiently to the American people, supporting our supply chains even while they continue to come under pressure from pandemic-driven disruptions,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Today’s announcements are an important step in the Administration’s Port Action Plan to strengthen our supply chains, modernize port operations, and combat inflation.”

Since its inception in 2014, AMHP has designated 54 marine highway projects. A marine highway project is a planned service, or expansion of an existing service, on a designated marine highway route. Amarine highway route is a navigable waterway, capable of transporting freight, located in the U.S. or its territories. Since 2010, the DOT has designated a total of 29 marine highway routes.   

In March, the Department announced the availability of nearly $25 million in grants through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the AMHP. This funding — the largest single appropriation of funding in the program’s history — was made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“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,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “This is truly an extraordinary moment.”

The new marine highway route., two newmarine highway projects, and one project designation extension include:

Marine highway route designation:
M-3 Kaskaskia River (Illinois): The Kaskaskia River is the second-longest river in Illinois, originating in central Illinois around Champaign, Ill., and terminating at its confluence with the Mississippi River – a distance of more than 300 miles. The Kaskaskia River has been predominately used to ship bulk commodities of coal, scrubber stone, slag, grain, and scrap metal since it was established as a navigable waterway; however, 40,000-50,000 tons of unitized coil steel are also moved on this waterway with a new tenant expected to ship up to 1.2 million tons of coiled steel for processing and other uses once it constructs its processing plant. The route designation will include the existing freight traffic between the terminals on the Kaskaskia River and the Mississippi River.

Marine highway project designations:
Lake Michigan M-90 Marine Highway Shortcut (Michigan and Wisconsin):
The project designation will support an existing ferry service that transports both freight vehicles and passengers across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis. The ferry service is anchored by the SS Badger, a documented U.S. vessel and a historic car ferry that is owned and operated by Interlake Maritime Services. The service allows freight trucks (including oversized trucks), along with cars, RVs, motorhomes, motorcycles, and other vehicles to avoid travel around the extremely busy southern route near Chicago. The project designation aligns with the administration’s focus on U.S. jobs, including union seafaring jobs, and the reduction of carbon emissions across the economy, particularly in the transportation sector.

Northwest Connect: Critical Lifelines between Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington (Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington): The project designation will serve the M-5 marine highway route transporting containerized freight to and from Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. Waterborne transportation is the most cost-effective way to transport goods between Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Roughly 90% of the tonnage in and out of Alaska moves by water, and 98% of the tonnage in and out of Hawaii moves by water. The domestic services between Alaska, Washington and Hawaii that are included in this project designation are estimated to save approximately $1.6 billion in emissions damages alone compared to what would be incurred if the same amount of cargo was to move by truck, in the case of Alaska, or by airplane, in the case of Hawaii.  

Project designation extension:
M-5 Coastal Connector (Oregon): The Port of San Diego is an original project applicant for the M-5 Coastal Connector Project, which received its AMHP designation in 2021. The original designation was for the planned service to transport goods on barges between Bellingham, Wash., southern Oregon, and San Diego. The Port of San Diego requested an extension to the project designation to the Port of Umpqua. The Port of Umpqua is an important partner in advancing this project designation by loading lumber for discharge at the Port of San Diego and receiving empty containers for use by shippers in Oregon.