PHOTO PROVIDED BY PORT OF NOLA, TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER

Louisiana Receives 7.1m for Port Improvements

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration is announcing $7.1 for port improvements in Louisiana under a new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law program created to improve air quality for truck drivers, port workers and families that live in communities surrounding ports. The Port of New Orleans will use the funding towards the purchase of new all-electric heavy and light duty trucks to replace diesel vehicles currently in use, upgrade electrical infrastructure and evaluate new emissions-reducing equipment. Overall, the new Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities program provides $148 million in grants to 16 projects in 11 states and Puerto Rico. The funding represents the first round of grants under the new $400 million Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program under BIL invests in port electrification and efficiency improvements. This program aims to reduce emissions from idling trucks at our nation’s ports while modernizing infrastructure and strengthening supply chains.

On another note, Louisiana’s ports support one in five jobs in the state. They help move millions of barrels of oil and chemicals products each year and enough U.S. agricultural exports to feed entire countries. Tourists arrive by the boatload for river and ocean cruises, and the taxes that ports generate account for around 5% of the state’s annual budget. Yet, despite their importance to the economy and jobs, the state’s public ports are run by 32 separate, independent boards that compete against each other for state funding and sometimes for business. That system, which has persisted for decades as Louisiana has lost ground to other Southern ports, looks set to undergo a big change.

Earlier this month, lawmakers in the Louisiana House passed, with a vote of 94-2, a bill that would create a powerful state board known as the Louisiana Ports and Waterways Investment Commission. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Jeff Landry, the commission would be responsible for guiding tens of millions of dollars in state funding for port investments and setting strategy for the state’s collection of inland, coastal and deepwater ports.