BALTIMORE (AP) - A $10 million federal grant to help improve the Port of Baltimore is just the latest example of federal investments to better enable the nation’s manufacturers to get their products around the world, Vice President Joe Biden said this week.
"Modernizing infrastructure - our ports, our canals, our rails, our roads - does nothing but encourage manufacturers to come back to the United States because it enables them ... to efficiently compete with everyone around the world," Biden said during a visit to the port.
The vice president also said the United States wants to see other nations’ economies grow to create bigger and better markets for the U.S. to sell products.
"And we can compete. It’s stamped into our DNA, but in order to be able to do that we have to be able to get our products efficiently around the world," Biden said.
Before speaking, Biden met with Mark Montgomery, president of Ports America Chesapeake, and Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. The vice president was briefed on the Seagirt Marine Terminal, which handles large container ships. It also can work with the so-called "post-Panamax" ships. They are massive vessels that can traverse an expanded Panama Canal.
The Seagirt terminal recently underwent a major expansion to accommodate the large ships. The expansion began in 2010 with a public-private partnership between the Port of Baltimore and Ports America Chesapeake, a private port operation company.
The expansion at Seagirt makes the Port of Baltimore one of two ports on the East Coast, along with the Port of Virginia in Norfolk, Va., that can currently handle the "post-Panamax" ships. The expanded Panama Canal is scheduled to open in 2015.
The Port of Baltimore has been awarded a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant. It will be used to increase cargo handling capacity and provide rail access at the port’s Fairfield Marine Terminal.
The project will use dredged material from the port’s main access channel to fill a basin and create a new 7.6-acre cargo staging area.
Rail access also will be added to improve the efficiency of handling automobiles and rolling on and off equipment like farm and construction machinery.
The total estimated cost of the project is $29 million. The Maryland Department of Transportation is paying for the other $19 million.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said about $417 million has been awarded to 33 ports in the last several rounds of grants.
"As a result, U.S. exports will be more competitive and that’s a win for American workers and it’s a win for the American economy," Foxx said. "So projects like these are what we should be doing in this country, and we should be doing much more of it as we go forward."
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended the news conference at the port.
O’Malley said the port is a vital employer of the state, and investments like the one announced Monday help sustain and create jobs.
"We understand in Maryland and in Baltimore that in order for a modern economy to create jobs, we need to be able to be willing to come together and make modern investments, investments that we can only make when we act together," O’Malley said.