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Port’s $13.4 million grant meets cargo transportation demand

RESERVE — Grant funding for a multi-modal connections project at the Port of South Louisiana will pave the way for economic development, improve the efficiency of cargo transport and, eventually, lead to more affordable products for American and global consumers.

Officials said the project will ensure the nation’s increased freight transportation needs are met in the present day and well into the future.

  1. Maritime Administrator Admiral Mark H. Buzby, Senator Bill Cassidy and Representative Garret Graves recently presented the Port of South Louisiana with a $13.4 million check for the multimodal project, slated to bring cargo deck and infrastructure updates for the Port’s Globalplex Intermodal Terminal in Reserve.

US. Maritime Administrator Admiral Mark H. Buzby speaks during the check presentation.

The grant was approved through the new U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration Port Infrastructure Development program.

During the ceremony, Buzby said this country’s “blue highway” of waterways is unparalleled across the world, and also sorely underdeveloped.

Buzby added that almost 70 percent of imports and exports flow through the nation’s ports, and there is still much room to grow.

“The movement of goods can only go up in this country. It’s been projected by many studies that we’re going to see at least a 30 percent increase over the next 20 years, if not more,” Buzby said. “Our roads and railways are just about at capacity. They won’t be able to take a lot more, so it’s going to have to move somehow. Water makes so much sense. It has to be developed more.”

The multimodal connections project will include the design and construction of a new heavy capacity dock access bridge, an access road, a rail spur and a dry storage area with conveyors to move bulk material. The project’s focus is on the general cargo dock and Building 71, a 54,000 square foot warehouse currently undergoing repairs.

Additions funded through the grant will support heavy-haul permit loads, off-road vehicles, warehousing of heavier commodities, transfer of bulk cargo in a closed loop and improved access within the Globalplex facility, according to a press release.

Located in St. John the Baptist Parish, the Globalplex is a 335-acre maritime industrial park offering access to railroads, roadways, airports and the Mississippi River. Improvements over the last 20 years to Globalplex infrastructure have allowed the amount of cargo to quadruple since 2007.

Paul Aucoin, executive director for the Port of South Louisiana, said the total project cost is estimated at $25,454,162. The multi-modal project has also received funds from Louisiana’s Capital Outlay program.

Aucoin thanked United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao for granting the award, which received a great deal of local, were many vast amount of worthy projects noted in grant applications from ports across the country. The Port of South Louisiana was one of 15 to receive grant funding.

“We could have given money to any one of them,” Buzby said. “We had to figure out where we were going to make the most impact and get the biggest bang for the money that Congress authorized for us to make these grants.”

Paul Robichaux, chairman of the Port of South Louisiana Commission, said the epicenter of the United States is right here in the River Region.

“This region is about to explode,” Robichaux said. “There is more economic development and commerce than we’ve ever seen.”

Senator Bill Cassidy discusses how the grant contributes to American prosperity.

U.S. Congressman Garret Graves said the Port of South Louisiana must be strategic in the use of its assets in order to compete on a global scale.

“You see the taglines — this is the largest port in the Western Hemisphere,” Graves said. “Just because it is today, doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow. It means that every single one of us needs to keep working to maintain that top designation.”

Graves said this investment will give more capacity not only to the Port of South Louisiana, but for the 31 states it connects in maritime commerce. This grant comes on the heels of a recently announced $85 million project to deepen the Mississippi River, allowing for larger ships to come through the Port.

“That is estimated to save $3.6 million per vessel transit,” Graves said. “We’re able to reduce the cost of American products globally.”

He said the project is also complemented by investments to keep the region from flooding, along with $42 million in the president’s budget for next year to keep the maritime industry moving forward.

Senator Bill Cassidy said the multimodal project creates better-paying jobs for Americans along the Mississippi River. The economic benefit can trickle down to brighten the lives of future generations.

“It’s benefitting not just the state, but the country,” Cassidy said. “This grant creates more prosperity for American workers.”

For more information, visit portsl.com or call 985-652-9278.