The U.S. Department of Transportation this week awarded $100 million to two Alabama transportation authorities to construct multi-modal transportation assets in Mobile, Alabama.
The Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) and the Alabama State Port Authority (ASPA) jointly competed for the opportunity to use the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Demonstration Program Grant to facilitate capital infrastructure improvements at the Port of Mobile and at the Mobile Downtown Airport (BFM). The competitive grant was authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act and is intended to increase the efficiency of freight movements by air, rail, highway, and water.
Under the grant, the Alabama State Port Authority will receive $38 million to leverage freight movement efficiencies by water, rail, air, and highway. The Port will invest in an interterminal connector bridge at the container intermodal complex to connect the marine terminal with the intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF) terminals and adjacent logistics park. The connector facilitates direct, low emission transfer of a container from an ocean vessel to rail via the ICTF or to warehouse distribution centers located within the logistics park.
The Port will also invest site development and civil infrastructure in preparation of the construction of distribution centers. These assets are located in the Mobile Harbor where a $367 million channel deepening and widening program is underway to provide ocean carriers at -50 ft. draft channel by late 2024 or early 2025.
In calendar year 2021, containerized cargo volumes increased by 19% over 2020 volumes. Refrigerated containers posted a 50% increase in volume compared to 2020. The port attributes much of this growth due to the delivery of nearly $74 million in refrigerated facilities investment at the Port of Mobile to support cold cargo supply chains.
“The timing of this grant could not be better,” said John C. Driscoll of the Alabama State Port Authority. “The port is progressing nicely on the channel modernization program, and we just closed out calendar year 2021 with unprecedented growth at our container intermodal facilities. As we move into our fourth container terminal expansion, this port is poised to deliver cost-effective, reliable, and efficient freight and intermodal cargo service for underserved logistics markets regionally and across North America.”
The port’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) year-end volume represents 139% increase over 2020 volumes. To date, the terminal has handled over 3.6 million TEUs since containerized operations began in 2008. Since, 2015, the Port of Mobile’s volume has grown by 120% making the gateway one of the fastest growing container ports in the United States.
The Alabama State Port Authority oversees the deep-water public port facilities at the Port of Mobile. The Port Authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterways and air cargo connections.
MAA will use its $62 million portion of the grant and other funds to construct a new international airport terminal at the BFM.
While providing convenient and low-cost air access for residents, the new terminal will also add critical commercial aircraft belly capacity for cargo and more efficient cargo processing with the Federal Inspection Services (FIS). MAA expects to open the new terminal in 2024 with a LEED Certified goal.