Lawmakers Find Money For Ports In DOT Funding Bill

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U.S. ports received $225 million in dedicated funding for fiscal 2020 from the Democrats’ version of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) spending bill after receiving no such funding from what President Donald Trump’s budget called for earlier this year.

While that amount – set aside for the Port Infrastructure Development Program by the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations subcommittee – is $68 million less than what was enacted for the program in 2019, port interests in Washington, D.C., will take it.

“We thank House T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Price and Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart for their continued leadership in investing our nation’s port infrastructure,” said Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). “The $225 million dedicated specifically for port infrastructure is an important step in building out our multimodal freight network.”

The bill, approved by the subcommittee on May 23, must be considered by the full House Appropriations committee before moving into negotiations with the Senate.

Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), who co-chairs the Florida Ports Caucus, helped negotiate the $293 million in 2019 funding for the new program, which comes out of the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) budget. The goal, according to AAPA, is to fund infrastructure improvements “that enhance U.S. port competitiveness and the ability of coastal seaports to effectively handle the movement of goods in America’s supply chain, which are used by U.S. manufacturers, farmers and consumers.”

The subcommittee allotted $1.1 billion for MARAD as whole in fiscal 2020, which is $63 million less than what was enacted for 2019 but $395 million above the administration’s proposed budget. It also includes $300 million for the Maritime Security Program (MSP), equal to the amount enacted in 2019. MSP is a fleet of large commercial U.S.-flag cargo ships that are available under agreement to provide vessel capacity needed for the U.S. Department of Defense during war and military operations.

The $87 billion that T-HUD appropriators allocated for DOT as a whole for fiscal 2020 – $3.7 billion more than proposed by President Trump – sets aside $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD), a discretionary multi-modal grant program that ports are also eligible to tap. That amount is $100 million more than what was enacted in fiscal 2019.

Other DOT agency funding in the proposal includes $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ($10 million above the 2019 enacted level, $1 million above the President’s budget request), $48.9 billion for the Federal Highway Administration ($404 million below the 2019 enacted level, $1.7 billion above the President’s request), and $3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration ($96 million above the 2019 enacted level, $877 million above the President’s budget).

Image sourced from Pixabay