Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Port of Oswego will receive a $1.5 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant through the Department of Transportation (DOT). The grant would allow the port to make critical upgrades to infrastructure and equipment so that it can meet future shipping demands, increase productivity, and preserve its role as a critical resource for businesses throughout Central New York and even across the globe. Earlier this month, Schumer personally met with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to urge him to select the Port of Oswego for TIGER funding. The Senators explained that the Port would use this funding to upgrade rail along the docks, which customers like Trafigura aluminum and Goldman Sachs rely on, and that has deteriorated to the point of shutting down. What’s more, the grant will allow the port to leverage $1.75 million in matching funds to bring the total investment in infrastructure upgrades to $3.2 million. The Senators noted that the project would create close to 100 construction jobs and prepare the regional port for a new era of increasing shipping demands.
Senator Gillibrand wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in May to advocate for the project that has strong potential to increase the Port’s storage capacity which would advance the Port’s international economic opportunities and retain the regions important manufacturing and agricultural industries.
“The Port of Oswego is gearing up for a boost in shipping traffic and imports in valuable commodities, and this critical upgrade to its rail infrastructure could be the key to unlocking the full potential of this job-creating trade hub in Central New York,” said Senator Schumer. “The fact that the Port of Oswego’s rail line – a critical link between the port and local supply chains – had been left to decay is unacceptable, and I went straight to the top at the Department of Transportation to push for a federal investment. I am thrilled Secretary Foxx heeded my recommendation and recognized the value in the Port of Oswego project. This federal investment is great bang for its buck—it will increase storage by 67%, ease congestion and facilitate the movement of goods in and out of the port, so that the vessels that come through each day can continue to pump over one billion dollars into the local economy each year.”
“This is an incredibly smart investment for the Port of Oswego,” Senator Gillibrand said. “When we invest in our transportation infrastructure, we set the foundation for economic growth, attract new businesses and new jobs for middle class families right here where we need it most. I worked hard to make sure Secretary LaHood knew how much of an impact this will make for the Port of Oswego and the surrounding region, and will always fight to secure the resources we need for a growing economy and a thriving middle class.”
Specifically, the Port of Oswego Authority will use the funds to construct a roadway, embedded with heavy rail track, connecting the Port’s main East Terminal to a six-acre secure, open-storage area to accommodate increased traffic and new commodities. The roadway connector will utilize the existing right-of-way to accommodate both truck and rail traffic. The development will nearly double the present storage and operation area for the Port and relieve the current yard congestion and lack of space. Construction of the new access corridor road will improve truck movement within the Port, and the rehabilitated rail/road network will connect the Port’s main deep-water dock to this new almost six-acre expansion site. The additional two sidetracks will allow the Port to increase its storage of railcars on site from 16 to 48 – a 67 percent increase – and provide a more efficient and safer traffic flow for railcars.
The port has transformed into a critical asset for retaining existing businesses reliant on shipping and for attracting new growth opportunity to Central New York. Commodities shipped out of the port include soybeans, windmill components, cement, chemicals, ores and minerals, like road salt, which represent some of the major businesses taking advantage of the port throughout Central New York. However, without these long-needed upgrades, the Port of Oswego would have been rendered useless should its rail link, which transports commodities to the outside world, be shut down.
The rail along the docks at the Port has been in place since 1963, and has not undergone any major rehabilitation since that time. The rail has deteriorated to the point where CSX has at times shut down activity, and rail at the north end is out of alignment, which causes derailments on a consistent basis. Furthermore, the port has eight switches on site – none of which work properly – which is hazardous now that the port handles 1,000 cars annually. In the near future, should the Port of Oswego be able to meet expected demand, frequent shipments of soybeans, wheat, corn, aluminum and other cargo could increase bringing another 250-500 cars annually within the next year. The TIGER grant will address the structural deficiencies in the rail link, preparing the Port of Oswego for future growth.
Both Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand have long advocated for upgrades to the Port of Oswego, and have recently pushed the Dept. of Homeland Security to award a Port Security Grant for the installation of an additional four security cameras—which would make the Port of Oswego the most secure port in the Great Lakes System. In 2011, Schumer and Gillibrand fought hard to secure over $160,000 of homeland security funding which allowed the Oswego port to build and install a 17-camera Integrated Surveillance System at the Port of Oswego Authority. The funding came at a crucial time when other cuts might have impacted preparation for a local or national emergency, but the award helped to ensure that the port remained safe and secure. It has helped expand port recovery and resiliency capabilities; and further capabilities to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other non-conventional weapons.
The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant Program was developed to spur a national competition for innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation.
This fiscal year, at least $120 million of TIGER funding is required to be spent on rural area projects. The Port of Oswego project qualifies as a rural area project under TIGER guidelines. Projects that typically receive TIGER grants include improvements to roads, bridges, rail, ports, transit and intermodal facilities, and Schumer noted that Oswego’s plan fits squarely within the program’s mission.
Senator Gillibrand’s complete letter to Secretary Ray LaHood is attached.