The Department of Transportation announced today that it has awarded $4.85 million in grants to six Marine Highway projects along the waterways of 17 states and the District of Columbia.

The goal of the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program is to expand the use of our nation’s navigable waterways to relieve landside congestion, reduce air emissions, and generate other public benefits by increasing the efficiency of the surface transportation system.

“These grants will help us take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of one of America’s most crucial transportation assets -- our coastal and inland waterways,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The grants will help expand existing marine highway operations across New York Harbor, along the Mississippi River between New Orleans, Baton Rouge, La., and Memphis, Tenn., and on the East Coast between Richmond, Va., and Hampton Roads, Va. Funding is also provided to support a demonstration project between St. Louis and Chicago, as well as planning efforts to determine the feasibility of commuter ferry services between Virginia and the District of Columbia, and a container-on-barge service along the Mississippi River between New Orleans, Minneapolis, Minn., and Chicago.

“It is essential that we invest in integrated, multimodal transportation systems that support the efficient movement of freight and people throughout this country,” said Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen. “Our nation’s extensive network of waterways and domestic seaports provide an opportunity to help stimulate economic growth while reducing congestion on our national freight transportation system.”

 Projects that received grant funding are:

Port of Baton Rouge and Port of New Orleans Container on Barge (Awarded $1,758,595) 

Sponsored by the Greater Port of Baton Rouge, the Memphis/Baton Rouge/New Orleans shuttle service is a regularly-scheduled container-on-barge service that supports exports moving from the Baton Rouge area to the Port of New Orleans, where the containers are loaded onto container vessels. The new service is designed to collect empty containers in Memphis and transport them to Baton Rouge to meet customer demand for chemical industry exports. The service provides exporters with new, more efficient transportation options, and offers a waterway alternative to re-position empty equipment that would otherwise move via truck or rail. The operation, which will commence with five barges per week, could potentially eliminate about 12,500 truck trips each year.

Illinois Container-on-barge Shuttle Project (Awarded $713,000)

Sponsored by America’s Central Port in Granite City, Ill., the Illinois Container-on-Barge Shuttle is an 18-month demonstration project to provide shuttle service for agricultural customers moving containerized exports between southern and northern Illinois to access the Union Pacific and BNSF rail ramps. The shuttle service will operate on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers between Channahon, Ill., and Granite City, Ill., with an option to extend container-on-barge service to Gulf of Mexico ports in concert with related Marine Highway Designation.

James River Container Expansion Project (Awarded $476,748)

Sponsored by the Port of Virginia, the 64 Express is an existing container-on-barge service that operates along the James River between Hampton Roads and Richmond. The grant will support development of new customers by expanding the service to include moving refrigerated and frozen products on the barge. The 64 Express is already removing over 15,000 truck trips per year from congested regional highways.

New York Harbor and Container and Trailer on Barge Service (Awarded $1,632,296)

Sponsored by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Harbor Container and Trailer on Barge is an existing service that operates in New York Harbor between Red Hook Container Terminal in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Red Hook Barge Terminal in Newark, N.J.  The grant will be used to purchase infrastructure that will support improved barge operations and the creation of a crane operator training center that will improve both safety and container throughput.

 M-55/M-35 Container on Barge Project (Awarded $96,000)

The City of St. Louis Port Authority along with three partners, Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Inc. (IRPT), Mississippi Rivers Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), and Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA), was awarded a grant to support planning efforts focused on the development of containerized shipping along the Mississippi River, between New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

M-495 Potomac River Commuter Ferry Project (Awarded $173,361)

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission was awarded a grant to support planning efforts focused on the development of a new commuter ferry service on the Potomac River. If fully developed, the M-495 Potomac River commuter ferry could reduce existing congestion on highways and interstates by providing commuters and shippers with more transportation choices between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.