U.S. awarding $12.6 million for marine highway projects

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Transportation Department on Friday said it is awarding $12.6 million in grants for nine marine highway projects as part of ongoing efforts to improve ports and address supply chain issues.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement the funds "will help us move more goods, more quickly and more efficiently" and ease the movement of goods along navigable waterways.

The $1 trillion infrastructure law signed last month by President Joe Biden provides an additional $25 million to support marine highway projects beyond Friday's awards.

In total, Congress approved $17 billion to revamp U.S. ports.

Many U.S. ports have bridge or depth limitations that restrict their ability to receive larger vessels, while a surge of cargo is straining land operations at some ports.

The marine highway program " encourages the use of America’s navigable waterways for the movement of freight and people as an alternative to land-based transportation,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

The new awards include $1.4 million to help fund a new bridge crane in Kentucky to transport steel products by inland river barge from the Ports of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Indiana.

A $1 million grant for a North Carolina container on barge shuttle operation which will eliminate some truck traffic. Currently containerized cargo bound for the Port of Virginia from Edenton, N.C. must reach its destination via trucks.

A project to modify a deck barge for deliveries in New York Harbor between New York and New Jersey is receiving $1.5 million. The project will allow for deliveries of up to 36 trailers between Brooklyn and Newark on one daily round trip, 260 days per year.

A Houston, Texas area project is getting $3 million to help fund two purpose-built barges to transport up to 56,000 containers annually to and from surrounding ports.

The Virginia Port Authority is getting $3 million to improve lighting within the Richmond Marine Terminal perimeter allowing for barge operations beyond daylight hours.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Michael Perry)