By Ramona du Houx

March 21, 2010

Maine will receive $14 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to revitalize Maine ports. Released as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, the $14 million will support Maine’s “Three-Port Strategy.”

“We have a three-port strategy based upon these veins of economic development and traffic,” said Governor Bladacci. “Maine is the doorstep to North America. You have to come in and out of Maine’s corridors in order to get into North America from Europe. And Europe is the in-between stop to Asia. That puts us on the front line for import and export opportunities. If you look at the map of Maine with 17,000 million acres of forestlands, there are three major veins running through the state. The first is Downeast – Northern Maine that the port of Eastport serves. The second is the Millinocket–Katahdin region that Searsport will serve, and the third is Portland and Southern Maine, which has Portland’s cargo port.”

In 2009, despite the recession Eastern ports saw a steady rise in the amount of container shipping traffic. Charles Moorman, CEO of Norfolk Rail said the use of freight is estimated to increase by 80 percent by 2025.

Maine will use the funds to diversify Maine ports’ customer base and improve the ability to handle green technology, such as wind turbine components.

“These grants will enable Maine ports to make vital improvements that will help Maine businesses be more competitive,” said Baldacci. “It will go a long way to help our pulp and paper companies, which are diversifying producing biofuels. Once the three-port strategy is in place, traffic generates traffic, more business opportunities and economic development will follow.”

The funds break down as follows:

• $5 million to the International Marine Terminal in Portland for capacity and infrastructure improvements. The funding will help improve access to the pier and also improve cargo-handling capability.

• $7 million to Searsport for investments in innovative new equipment, including a heavy-lift mobile harbor crane and cargo-handling equipment.

• $2 million will go to Eastport for a warehouse, conveyer equipment and storage pad.

“Whether it’s shipping forest products or new wind turbine components, we’ll need increased port capacity to move Maine’s economy forward,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “These investments will create jobs for Mainers in the short term through port improvement work and in the long term by ensuring that our businesses have the infrastructure to ship our products around the world.”

In an overwhelming show of demand for the program, the U.S. Department of Transportation was flooded with more than 1,400 applications from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia requesting funding for almost $60 billion worth of projects – 40 times the amount available through the program.

“TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This will help us meet the 21st century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”