Feds expected to pay 50% of Portland marine terminal expansion

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PORTLAND — A U.S. Department of Transportation grant is expected to fund half of a $15.4 million expansion at the burgeoning International Marine Terminal.

The Maine Department of Transportation grant proposal, which still faces review by Congress, anticipates a second crane, added piers, new offices and maintenance buildings, and enhanced railroad crossings west of the terminal on Commercial Street could be ready in 2018, according to a joint announcement July 6 by MDOT and members of the state’s congressional delegation.

The improvements would double the terminal’s freight-handling capacity and reduce truck traffic on Interstate 95, which in turn would reduce carbon emissions and highway maintenance costs, according to the grant application

While principally funded through a federal Fostering Advancement in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies, or FASTLANE, grant, the port expansion will also be funded with $4.5 million of state bonds to buy the new cargo crane.

U.S. Department of Transportation Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Funding will add $2.2 million, with another $537,000 in federal highway funds going to improve railroad grade crossings and switching hardware. Track owners Pan Am Railways will pay $492,000 for the rail upgrades.

At the heart of the upgrades are a second crane to offload shipping containers, which the grant application said could boost container traffic to 50,000 annually by 2020. The new crane would double capacity for handling freighters, with the economic impact estimated at $46 million, including at least 15 new jobs. The port now handles about 10,500 containers annually.

Icelandic shippers Eimskipp made the terminal its U.S. base in 2013 and, last fall, MDOT awarded a cold storage warehouse contract to Americold Logistics.

The new expansion builds on work that helped transform the former ferry terminal into Eimskip’s base, while extending rail lines to the terminal. The removal of an existing maintenance building will lead to 12,000 square feet of new pier space to handle the freight. A new maintenance and office building will be constructed away from the pier.

If the intended capacity of 50,000 containers is achieved by 2020, the application estimates 35 million truck miles would be saved from 2017-2020, and 14 million annually after that.

By the second year of expanded operations, it is estimated 3.1 million gallons of fuel will be saved because of the reduced truck traffic. The reduction would also save an $5.4 million in maintenance costs for federal highways, based on the estimated penny per truck ton mile rate added to those costs.

The upgrades to the rail connections at the port include more side tracks to put together trains, and radio-controlled switching devices that would no longer require train crews to manually activate switches.  

The grade crossing at Cassidy Point Drive would also be upgraded, west of the terminal along Commercial Street.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A $7.7 million federal grant will fund 50 percent of the cost to expand operations at the International Marine Terminal by doubling the freight-handling capacity.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.