The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act brought tremendous opportunities for ports, but a somewhat constrained time window to take advantage of them. The deadline for this year’s competitive Port Infrastructure Development Program grant proposals is May 16.
Among the inland ports that have benefitted from PIDP grants recently are Granite City, Ill.; Paducah, Ky.; Tell City, Ind.; Little Rock, Ark.; Bay St. Louis, Miss.; and Aberdeen, Miss. It’s good that inland ports are represented, but given their importance, there should be many more inland port recipients.
Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation announced that it was doubling funding for its Port Infrastructure Development Program, courtesy of the IIJA. But the increased funding came with changes in eligibility, program criteria and guidelines. These are mostly intended to broaden access and increase funding, but limitations and conditions still exist. Familiarizing yourself with the language now is probably a good idea for all port directors or those responsible for preparing grant applications, even those not planning to apply during this funding cycle.
The Biden administration says it is putting more emphasis on projects that fight climate change, reduce emissions and/or increase resilience to climate-caused issues like flooding. The language embraces a lot of projects that would have qualified for grants under the old guidelines, and would still qualify now, but knowing how to pitch a project and what language to use in writing up proposals will probably improve the chances of receiving a grant award.
Another goal of the administration is reducing impacts of port operations and environmental consequences to historically underserved communities. Projects that can show that will probably get increased attention.
The Maritime Administration has provided a whole series of video presentations on how to prepare applications. An April 15 presentation focused on applying for a PIDP grant under IIJA. An April 7 webcast focused on how to prepare cost-benefit analyses. They are available on the MarAd website.
Not all ports can afford a full-time person whose job is to scour grant opportunities, but it is worthwhile for port representatives to dive into the PIDP document if only to improve their chances the next time they apply.