Thursday, February 18, 2010

NorCal Inland Container Barge Project Receives Fed Stimulus Funding

The US Department of Transportation has awarded $30 million to a partnership including the ports in West Sacramento, Oakland and Stockton to launch an inland marine highway service.

The funding, which comes from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s $1.5 billion Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER program, will be used to implement a barge service to shuttle containers between the three ports as an alternative to trucks or rail.

The barge service is expected to be up and running by the end of this year.
“Investing in infrastructure is one of the best ways to create and sustain good paying jobs,” said US Congressman Mike Thompson, whose 1st District covers the West Sacramento port.

“Every dollar we invest in infrastructure gives our economy a 59 percent return," said Thompson, adding that the TIGER program will "create both near term construction jobs, long term employment opportunities, and will deliver economic and environmental benefits to our region and state.”

In addition, the Port of West Sacramento will use a portion of the federal funding to construct a crane and other facilities needed for handling container cargo.

The ports of Stockton and West Sacramento, both located more than 75 miles inland from San Francisco Bay and accessible only by a man-made canal, have succeeded as bulk ports focusing mainly on agricultural products grown in California's Central Valley. Over the past decade both have tried to increase their ability to handle more containers as more bulk products have moved to box shipments.

According to the funding request submitted by the three ports, the marine highway project will "reduce greenhouse gas emissions, relieve congestion on Northern California and Central California highways, and help reduce round-trip and overall truck miles traveled between distribution centers and port facilities in the area, with corresponding savings in fuel costs."

DOT officials said that the TIGER program received the Recovery Act funds to "spur a national competition for innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation."