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Biden Sets Sights On Multibillion-Dollar Port Upgrades In Wake Of Infrastructure Bill Passage

The Port of Oakland

The White House has announced a new action plan aimed at upgrading U.S. ports and inland waterways, which have proven to be supply chain chokepoints this year, caught between labor shortages, high consumer demand and pandemic-related manufacturing delays. 

The international logistics snarl has slowed the delivery of goods to the U.S. and contributed to intermittent shortages. As of Monday, 77 container ships — a near-record number — were anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, waiting for dock space to unload, The Washington Post reports.

The administration's plan will involve projects funded by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress, though not yet signed by President Joe Biden. Altogether, the bill will provide $17B for infrastructure improvements at ports, waterways and U.S. border ports of entry.

Among other priorities, the legislation allocates $5B for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program, which supports highway and rail projects involved in the movement of goods, as well as $5B to the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program, which funds projects that improve the reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail. 

The action plan didn't specify a timetable for the infrastructure projects, but the administration will direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on Corps-eligible facilities, including ports, within the next 60 days, CNBC reports, citing anonymous sources within the administration.

The administration also plans to award $243M in new port and marine infrastructure grants within the next 45 days, according to CNBC.

So far, the administration's efforts have had little impact on the knotty supply chain situation. The president spoke by phone on Tuesday with top retail and shipping company CEOs about what the government and industry could do to alleviate the crisis, especially to make sure that store shelves “are well-stocked this holiday season,” the White House said.