WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has unveiled a new initiative to move more cargo on the water rather than on crowded U.S. highways. Under the “America’s Marine Highway” program, the Department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) will help identify rivers and coastal routes that could carry cargo efficiently, bypassing congested roads around busy ports and reducing greenhouse gases.
Under the new regulation, regional transportation officials will be able to apply to have specific transportation corridors – and even individual projects—designated by the Department of Transportation as a marine highway if they meet certain criteria. Once designated, these projects will receive preferential treatment for any future federal assistance from the department or MARAD.
“There are many places in our country where expanded use of marine transportation just makes sense,” said David Matsuda, acting administrator of the Maritime Administration. “It has so much potential to help our nation in many ways: reduced gridlock and greenhouse gases and more jobs for skilled mariners and shipbuilders.”
The Marine Highway initiative stems from a 2007 law requiring the Secretary of Transportation to “establish a short sea transportation program and designate short sea transportation projects to mitigate surface congestion.”
Earlier this year, Secretary LaHood announced $58 million in grants for projects to support the start-up or expansion of Marine Highways services, awarded through the Department’s TIGER grants program. Congress has also set aside an additional $7 million in grants, which MARAD will award later this year.