Collins promotes Portland to U.S. transportation chief

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PORTLAND — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, trumpeted nearly $122 million in grants the state has received from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER Grant program in a visit to the Port of Portland.

Collins, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and others toured the waterfront Monday afternoon, Oct. 3, after visiting the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which connects Kittery to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Collins pushed for the $25 million awarded to Maine in 2014 for the rail portion of the bridge.

The Port of Portland was awarded $5 million in 2010 and $7.7 million this year. The funds will be used to increase the amount of cargo freight that can move through the International Marine Terminal.

“I remember passing by this port so many times over so many years, and the transformation has been nothing short of fabulous,” Collins said during a press conference at 460 Commercial St. She added the port is now a busy place, with several of Maine’s larger businesses, including L.L. Bean and Poland Spring, using the port along with producers of agricultural products like blueberries and potatoes.

 The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is an old steel structure that has fallen into disrepair, is now closed to automobile traffic and is set to be demolished. Foxx said there are times when it doesn’t operate and let ships through.

“And the investment that we’ve been able to make with the support of Sen. Collins and with your state DOT and so many other agencies, it’s going to recreate that bridge in a better incarnation, and we hope that bridge lasts for 100 years,” Foxx said.

Both Collins and Foxx said investing in infrastructure creates jobs and grows the economy. Additionally, Collins said these kinds of investments will help increase competitiveness for Maine businesses.

The two also spoke of the difficulty of landing grants such as TIGER, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. Collins said there were more than 7,000 applications for TIGER grants, and only about 420 could be funded. But she said Maine has been funded in every round, which she credited to the state’s strong partnership with the U.S. DOT.

“We have a country that is full of opportunity, full of potential,” Foxx said. “And when you come to a port like this, you look at what it looked like even a decade ago, you see this potential being realized.”

Foxx said the grants require communities in the public sector and the private sector, local officials and state officials to have coherent visions for how the community would come together. And he said the Port of Portland is a prime example of that.

“Keep giving us your vision, keep being an example for this country, and we will continue to support you as you continue to make Maine a huge, huge part of the global economy,” Foxx said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx were at the Port of Portland on Commercial Street on Monday, Oct. 3.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or