The Maritime Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation – known as MARAD – recently issued a notice of funding opportunity, making more than $12.4 million in fiscal year 2023 grants available to support a variety of marine highway projects.
[Above photo by MoDOT]
The agency also renamed the program via which those funds will flow through, changing its name to the “United States Marine Highway Program” or USMHP, which previously went by the moniker “America’s Marine Highway Program.”
However, MARAD stressed that the mission of the USMHP remains unchanged despite the name change. It seeks to increase the use of America’s navigable waterways, especially where water-based transport is the most efficient, effective, and sustainable option.
The program also aims to help create maritime jobs, strengthen the nation’s supply chains, reduce emissions, and lower maintenance costs.
“Since the establishment of the marine highways program, MARAD has awarded more than $91.6 million in competitive grants to eligible organizations for marine highway services,” said Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips in a statement.
“These grants have supported the development and expansion of marine highways, vessels, and landside ports and infrastructure, which are critical to building supply chain resilience,” she added.
MARAD noted it will evaluate marine highway projects using a number of “criteria,” including the effect on movement of goods, level of non-federal funding investment, use of domestic preference, consideration of equity, and environmental justice.
MARAD added that it would also consider geographic diversity when selecting grant recipients, as well as how the project addresses challenges faced by rural areas.
Many state departments of transportation are also working on their own to improve marine highways in their respective areas.
For example, in November 2022, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and the City of Skagway agreed to develop new marine facilities for both the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) as well as commercial and private marine businesses.
The agreement between them includes preliminary design, engineering, and a feasibility analysis for the new facilities.
The AMHS serves 35 communities in Alaska and transports goods, vehicles and passengers between communities. The ocean highway also links coastal communities to Alaska’s highway and rail network.