WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao talked Thursday about the importance of the $16 million federal grant awarded to the Port of Wilmington for infrastructure improvements. The Wilmington facility is one of 18 nationwide receiving the funds through the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program, and one of eight located near Opportunity Zones.
“Ports are critical to our nation’s economy,” Secretary Chao said from her office in Washington, DC. “They provide jobs, they allow imports and exports to come in and out of our economy. At the end of the day, these federal dollars are really going to help the region’s ongoing economic recovery.”
According to a news release from the Port of Wilmington, the funds will be used as part of a $200 million expansion of the container yard. As part of the project, a new container gate will more than triple the current capacity. It will also include adding more inbound and outbound lanes for truck traffic to and from the port. Plans also call for new technologies like optical character recognition and radio frequency identification, which will enable truck traffic to move through the gates without stopping.
“This is going to significantly streamline container traffic flow, and it will also relieve a bottleneck of truck traffic at the gate checkpoint,” Sec. Chao added. “When you have all that congestion, obviously that increases the risk of accidents. it also delays delivery and movement of freight. So from a safety point of view and efficiency point of view, I think this grant is really going to help the port.”
Sec. Chao added that since 2017, the Trump Administration has awarded more than $7.7 billion in federal funding to North Carolina to help repair, rebuild and maintain the state’s road, bridge, airport, rail and port infrastructure.