Duluth port authority gets $10 million grant for upgrades

The following is the text of a news release from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority: 

(DULUTH, Minn.) — With a $10 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority embarks on an exciting new project along Duluth's waterfront – undertaking a major adaptive reuse and redevelopment project on Garfield Pier (Dock C&D) that will not only re-establish the dock's structural integrity, but also connect the 28-acre site to existing road access and rail infrastructure.  Once complete, the new platform will markedly expand the Port's general cargo handling capacity.

"The award represents a major investment in this region's multimodal transportation system," said Adolph Ojard, Port Authority executive director. "The Port of Duluth-Superior is strategically positioned to serve the heartland of North America.  Returning this valuable parcel of land to the development stream allows it to once again become a productive community asset – offering strategic support to serve expansions in multiple core industries in the years ahead from the region's nonferrous, iron mining and steel industries to the pulp and papermaking sectors, while further incentivizing new entrepreneurial investment." 

In essence, this is a capacity-building project. "This site represents the largest of just a handful of remaining parcels of land situated on Seaway-draft channels in this harbor," added Ojard.  "We're rehabbing the platform of what was once a grain elevator…setting the table, so to speak, for future growth and development. Once complete, the Port will have a new, competitive platform from which to address future business opportunities as they present themselves." 

This redevelopment project represents a major undertaking for the Duluth Port. The total price tag is $16 million. In addition to the $10 million in federal funding awarded, project costs will be covered by nearly $3 million in funds forthcoming from the Minnesota Port Development Assistance Program with the balance committed by the Port Authority itself.

Project Highlights

Once the award is officially presented by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Port Authority staff will finalize the specific construction timetable. Preliminary engineering design work to stabilize and upgrade the site has been completed; the plan encompasses several components:

 • Dock reconstruction (replacing corroded sheet piling and deteriorated wooden dock walls)

 • Resurfacing the property

 • Renovating a roll-on/roll-off dock

 • Dredging adjacent waters for ship berths

 • Installing road and rail infrastructure links

 • Making safety and security enhancements

 "We could conceivably bid the project yet this fall and be ready to start construction next spring," noted Ojard, referencing the site plan and artist's rendering included in the grant application. He also stressed the competitiveness of the TIGER grant process. "The Port Authority submitted a proposal in each of the four previous years and rose quite high in final rankings, but never made the final cut…until now. It seems the fifth time's the charm."                                                                                                                                  

"This is a project endorsed and supported by public and private sectors alike for the opportunities it opens up for growth and for the value it adds to the Port and to the greater business community," added Ojard.  "We are grateful for the long-standing support of Minnesota's Congressional delegation as well as for the support received from Mayor Ness, local civic leaders and stakeholders from business and industry who endorsed this project from the outset. And, we want to thank MARAD, this nation's Maritime Administration, for the support and guidance they've provided throughout this process."

Cargill donated Garfield Pier (Docks C&D) to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in 1989; the Port Authority has since spent upwards of $3 million to demolish the old grain elevators and prepare the site for future capital upgrades. Located across the slip from the existing Clure Public Marine Terminal, the pier is currently used for the temporary storage and staging of wind turbine components and other project cargo.

Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants date back to the program's launch in 2008. Administered by the U.S. Department of transportation, it is the only general funding source for port-related and other transportation infrastructure projects across the nation, so this award represents a crucial investment in regional job creation, expansion of export capacity and overall economic competitiveness.  There was nearly $474 million in TIGER discretionary funds available for 2013. 

Close to 1,000 ships visit the Port of Duluth-Superior each year, moving roughly 40 million tons of cargo including iron ore, coal, grain, limestone, cement and salt plus a variety of heavy-lift and project cargo. As the largest tonnage port on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, cargo movements through the Port of  Duluth-Superior support 11,500 jobs and contribute over $1.5 billion to the local/regional economy.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is an independent, public agency created by the Minnesota State Legislature  to foster regional maritime commerce, promote trade development, facilitate industrial development  and serve as an advocate for port interests here and around the world. For more information, visit www.duluthport.com.

By Professional Mariner Staff