By John Cahill
The Port of Boston’s Conley Terminal is New England’s only full-service container terminal serving seven of the world’s top container lines and moving goods such as seafood, furniture, scrap metal and footwear. On September 19, 2016, local, state and federal officials gathered in South Boston to celebrate the numerous achievements and milestones over the last year at Conley Container Terminal, most notably its recent award of a $42 million inaugural federal FASTLANE Grant.
The United States Congress created the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) program in December 2015 in order to provide dedicated funding for critical freight and highway projects that address major issues facing our nation’s infrastructure. For the first time in the U.S. DOT’s 50-year history, the program establishes broad, multiyear eligibilities for freight infrastructure, including intermodal projects.
In this, its first year, FASTLANE funded 18 infrastructure projects – out of an applicant pool of 212. This revitalization project brings significant value and opportunity not only to Massachusetts, but to the entire region. Many neighborhoods and communities are expected to benefit from the economic growth of the Conley Terminal, as the grant is expected to protect and create a total of 7,000 jobs in the working port. The Port of Boston serves as the gateway for the majority of our daily goods, ranging from the shoes on our feet to the furniture in our homes, and even the wine on our tables, all of which come through the Conley Terminal.
In the current post-earmark world, the harsh reality is that very limited mechanisms exist to fund critical, shovel-ready projects outside existing Department of Transportation programs. A grant program like FASTLANE is not only intended to specifically fund America’s freight system and support economic growth, but also is uniquely designed to focus on maximizing funding already secured for projects from federal, state, local and/or private sources. This combination of funding from multiple sources is what allowed the $800 million FASTLANE grant to support and leverage $3.6 billion in transportation infrastructure improvements nationally.
O’Neill and Associates worked extensively with the Massachusetts Port Authority administration in its pursuit of funding to bring necessary intermodal improvements and modernization to sustain and improve current business. Additionally, these improvements will help expand Conley Terminal for future business and to better serve the larger container ships travelling through the expanded Panama Canal. Prior to the announcement of the grant, O’Neill and Associates has worked with U.S. DOT on behalf of Massport to highlight the work and investments made by the Authority to support the federal and state investment in the Boston Harbor Dredging project. As part of this effort, O’Neill and Associates regularly briefed key members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and their staff on progress.
It was this crucial collaboration of local, state, and federal stakeholders that resulted in a competitive application for a project well positioned to maximize current funding opportunities. By ensuring that Conley Terminal is competitive and prepared for the larger vessels, the funding and improvements made possible by the FASTLANE grant allow the Massachusetts Port Authority to take cargo off the congested I-95 corridor, expand America’s intermodal freight carrying capacity, and reduce bottlenecks at other congested Northeast ports.
A leading transportation expert, John Cahill is a vice chairman and manager of O’Neill and Associates’ federal relations practice. To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ services, visit our website.