BANGOR, Maine — Sen. Susan Collins, along with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, announced Friday that the Port of Eastport will receive a $6 million grant.
The grant is part of the latest round of the National Infrastructure Investments program’s funding, also known as the Tiger program.
“This announcement is great news for a Labor Day weekend because it will mean more jobs and economic opportunity for Mainers,” Collins said in a statement. “Improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure is vital to the safe and efficient movement of freight and people, and it is critical to our economy. The Port of Eastport is significant infrastructure for economic development and job creation in Washington County and the State of Maine.”
The grant will support the replacement of the town’s breakwater, which was built to protect the port from waves. The failing breakwater now in place has led to significant damage to the port of entry. The new barrier will use composite materials to strengthen its protection.
Eastport, an important port of entry for commercial ships, serves as the safe harbor for the vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard station.
“I think it’s so appropriate that this announcement comes Labor Day weekend,” said Collins, speaking with the Bangor Daily News by phone from her camp in Enfield, “because it is about jobs.”
The project will provide valuable engineering and construction jobs that are “much needed … when our economy is still struggling,” she said.
The reconstruction of the breakwater will bolster the presence of the Coast Guard as well as the region’s lobstermen and its commercial fishing industry, observed Collins. In addition, it will help Eastport’s efforts to attract cruise vessels, as well as freighters.
“So it produces both the near-term jobs, in terms of construction, but also provides a foundation for long-term employment as well,” said Collins.
The grant program is extraordinarily competitive, according to Collins, ranking member of the transportation appropriations subcommittee.
“So I think it speaks well for the importance of this project,” she added.
“The Eastport Port Authority is extremely pleased to learn that our TIGER application for the Breakwater Rehabilitation has been awarded funding,” said Eastport Port Authority executive director Chris Gardner. “We cannot thank Senator Collins enough for the direct personal attention that she provided to this project from day one through the final days of consideration.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 600 applications totaling $9 billion were submitted.
Engineering and design work is underway, noted Gardner, with roughly $300,000 in funding provided by the port authority and $100,000 in state funds. The engineering and design should be completed by year’s end, he said, and construction work would begin in 2014.
The repairs will take “the better part of a year if not slightly longer,” said Gardner.
The project will greatly benefit the region and Washington County, said Gardner, a member of the Washington County Commission. It will pay economic benefits “for several generations to come,” he said.
The economic impact goes far beyond the city of Eastport and the port authority, he pointed out.
“It is truly one of the bright spots of this county, and we’re glad we can rebuild it.”