Port of New Bedford seeks federal funds for expansion project

Published on
October 23, 2017

America’s most valuable commercial seafood port is casting its line toward Washington and hoping to land a federal grant to help it become even bigger.

Officials in New Bedford, Massachusetts, have applied for a USD 15 million (EUR 12.8 million) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant with the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to the city’s proposal, officials want to add 800 feet of bulkhead at the Port of New Bedford, located in the southeastern tip of the state, and dredge areas to make it more accessible to boats. 

City officials said the expansion would create about 900 new jobs in a region where the per capita income of USD 21,181 (EUR 17,946) is less than 60 percent of the state average.

“We feel we submitted a strong application, clearly demonstrating how this project will increase efficiencies for a number of water-dependent businesses and will spur immense economic development and private investment for the long-term,” Port Director Ed Washburn said.

For this year’s funding round, USD 500 million (EUR 423.7 million) will be available through the DoT. 

“The TIGER grant program is a highly competitive program whose winners will be awarded with the funding they need to rebuild the infrastructure of their communities,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said. “TIGER grants will continue to fund innovative projects that will improve the safety of America’s passengers and goods.”  

If the grant proposal succeeds, city officials will be able to match the TIGER grant with roughly USD 20 million (EUR 16.9 million) in state and private funds for other expansion work. However, the city isn’t just banking on landing this highly competitive grant. Officials also are putting together a similar application in hopes of receiving an Infrastructure for a Rebuilding America grant.

In the TIGER application, city officials tout the strength of the port as the major commercial fishing hub on the East Coast, adding that the port supports fishing communities across the Atlantic seaboard.

According to NOAA Fisheries data, the port accounted for nearly 124 million pounds of fish brought to shore in 2015. While other ports brought in larger catches, the USD 321.9 million (EUR 272.7 million) value ranked No. 1 among all U.S. ports. 

According to a 2016 economic impact study, fishing and processing jobs account for nearly 97 percent of the total marine workforce tied to the port. Seafood processors in New Bedford generated USD 9.6 billion (EUR 8.1 billion) in economic activity and USD 1.6 billion (EUR 1.4 billion) in employee wages in 2015. 

However, city officials hope the expansion could spur growth into other industries as well, including offshore wind. The expansion would create enough space for the port to hold parts and equipment essential for that emerging energy development field.

“The purpose of this project is to promote growth in the Port of New Bedford across multiple industries: fishing, offshore wind, cargo, and island freight,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “With the EPA’s recent approval, we are now in a position to seek funding for construction, and I am grateful to our federal and state legislative delegations for their support.”

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