Biden touts $10 million federal grant to upgrade Port of Baltimore during visit

Vice President Biden highlighted a $10 million federal grant Monday for improvements at the Port of Baltimore as part of a larger push to help modernize the nation’s maritime infrastructure.

“All of the East Coast ports, all of them, need to get in the game,” Biden (D) said at a late-morning event where he appeared with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), both U.S. senators from Maryland and three of the state’s congressmen. “The rest of the country has to catch up with you.”

The $10 million grant will be used to increase cargo handling and provide rail access at the port’s Fairfield Marine Terminal, according to state officials. The Maryland Department of Transportation is providing another $19 million for the upgrades.

The terminal is used primarily for shipping automobiles and farm and construction machinery — categories for which the Port of Baltimore ranks first among U.S. ports, state officials said.

Biden said he plans several more visits to U.S. ports to highlight how important they are to the rebound of American manufacturing.

“If we make it in America ... we’ve got to be able to ship it around the world,” he said during remarks in which Biden also emphasized the need to modernize U.S. infrastructure.

Biden’s event was staged in front of four supersized container cranes that are symbols of a new era at the Port of Baltimore. The 400-foot-tall cranes were purchased by Ports America Chesapeake, which entered into a 50-year public-private partnership to operate the state-owned portion of the Port of Baltimore in early 2010.

At part of the agreement with the state, Ports America constructed a 50-foot berth for the port, which will allow some of the largest container ships in the world to come to Maryland. That development that will take on added significance with an expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled for completion in 2015.

“This translates into jobs,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), making a point echoed by other speakers at the event.

Also appearing were Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

O’Malley and Biden, who are both weighing 2016 presidential bids, heaped praise on one another as they spoke.

O’Malley called Biden “a tireless advocate for the cause of a stronger middle class.”

Biden commended O’Malley’s work in Maryland, saying: “You’ve had a heckuva run, man.”

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.

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