BUILD Grant Funding Includes Awards Along Inland Waterways

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $1 billion in infrastructure improvements September 16 through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program.

Funding has been awarded to 70 projects in 44 states, including projects on the inland waterways system. The department awarded half of the BUILD grant funding to projects located in rural areas, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). For this round of BUILD grants, the maximum grant award is $25 million, with no more than $100 million awarded to a single state.

“This administration is making significant investments in infrastructure, and this $1 billion in BUILD grants will repair, rebuild and revitalize transportation systems across America,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said.

Fiscal year 2020 BUILD Transportation grants are for planning and capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and were awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact. The funding supports roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation. Criteria for the grant awards included safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, state of good repair, environmental sustainability, innovation and partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

Projects on the inland waterways include:

St. Louis Bi-State Regional Ports Improvement Project

America’s Central Port District in Granite City, Ill., was awarded $20,840,000 for the St. Louis Bi-State Regional Ports Improvement Project as part of the total project cost of $26,050,000. The project involves improvements at three ports: America’s Central Port; St. Louis Port Authority in Missouri; and Southwest Regional Port District in Illinois.

At America’s Central Port, the grant funds 2,050 linear feet of new railroad track, a new belt system and barge loading system replacement. At the St. Louis Port Authority, the project includes 7,300 linear feet of new railroad track, barge loading equipment modernization, conveyor replacement, loading shed updates and flood mitigation work. At Southwest Regional Port District, the funding goes toward a loading shed and electrical system updates, hoist system and barge loading upgrades as well as flood mitigation work.

Project highlights include new grain storage, conveyor equipment and additional track at the facilities that the DOT said will make the ports more competitive by modernizing existing assets and thereby expanding capacity, reducing wait times and providing an attractive alternative for grain shippers. It will also help to allow the facilities to remain open when the Mississippi River floods, with a goal of avoiding the extended closures of years past.

Tuscaloosa Landing Area Project

The City of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was awarded $15 million for the Tuscaloosa Landing Area Project as part of the total project cost of $20 million.

The project consists of three pieces, all designed to improve access to the Riverwalk in West Tuscaloosa. They are: Black Warrior River barge mooring improvements; a bicycle and pedestrian path; and a pedestrian bridge. The mooring improvements will allow an abandoned lock structure to be used for the construction of the shared-use path. They will also add more length to expand barge storage capacity, promoting economic competitiveness.

The pedestrian bridge will cross the new Jack Warner Parkway. The bicycle and pedestrian path will run from the new pedestrian bridge to the existing riverfront park to the east and will include lighting and security elements.

The project is being completed in partnership with Elevate Tuscaloosa, a community-driven council involved in city planning.

Port of Cates Landing Rail Extension Project

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development was awarded $7 million for the Port of Cates Landing Rail Extension Project in Lake County as part of the total project cost of $12 million.

The grant funds the construction of 5.5 miles of rail to connect the Port of Cates Landing and the adjoining Select Tennessee certified industrial site to the TennKen short-line railroad.

The rail connection will be constructed above the 100-year floodplain, reducing the chances it will be impacted by flooding and allowing the port to remain operational during a natural disaster. The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority (NWTRPA) has partnered with TennKen Rail and the Lake County Industrial Park to develop, implement and maintain the project.

Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement
Pre-Construction: Phase 2

The Port of Hood River, Ore., was awarded $5 million for the second phase of the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement Pre-Construction project as part of the total project cost of $6,250,000.

The funding will allow complete engineering and other studies for the replacement of the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge, connecting White Salmon and Bingen, Wash., with Hood River over the Columbia River. The deteriorating current bridge carries limited loads and has expensive maintenance and repair costs.

The replacement will create a wider navigational opening for marine traffic currently facing challenges navigating the bridge, allow widened travel lanes and shoulders for motor vehicle traffic and add a dedicated bike/pedestrian facility to improve safety. It will also increase the bridge’s weight capacity, eliminating additional miles load-limited trucks must currently travel to move freight across state borders.

Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission Multimodal Freight Strategy

The Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission was awarded $140,000 for a freight study with a total project cost of $200,000. The freight study is to be completed in Buffalo, Crawford, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Trempealeau and Vernon counties in Wisconsin.

The grant will support the analysis and development of a freight system strategy for the nine-county Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission region in western Wisconsin, according to the DOT.

The study includes developing background information on freight transportation in the region and creating content to incorporate into county and local comprehensive plans. It will include assessment of community and environmental impacts of freight movement, including conflicts between passengers and freight, to identify potential safety improvements. It will also identify roads that face disproportionately heavy truck use to help the state make good repair decisions. The project seeks to support growing and traditional regional industries in a rural area known for agriculture, mining, energy, food production and industrial commodities.