Expanding Port of Lewiston strengthens Idaho’s connection to world Markets (from USDOT)

Expanding Port of Lewiston strengthens
Idaho’s connection to world markets

For farmers and other businesses in the West, the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, provides a critical link–through the Snake and Columbia rivers–to the Port of Portland and the Pacific Ocean. In 2011, cargo exported from the port reached 17 different countries, including 85 percent of the soft white wheat, peas and lentil grown in the region.

Yesterday, with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, U.S. Senator Jim Risch, and U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, I had the opportunity to tour the port, and it was clear to see how important its container pier is to this community, to the state, and to the region. It was also clear to see how important it is to expand the port’s capacity.

At Port of Lewiston
Many thanks to Senator Crapo for posting this photo on his Facebook page

The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley is one of few American communities with more than 50,000 residents that also lies more than an hour’s drive from the nearest interstate highway, which makes the Port of Lewiston even more essential to the region’s economy and explains why the port is one of the primary inland export terminals in the nation.

Expanding and upgrading this key port will allow farmers and other businesses even greater access to global markets. And that’s exactly what a $1.3 million grant from DOT’s TIGER program will help the Port of Lewiston accomplish.

Photo courtesy of Port of Lewiston

While it may surprise readers to learn that this interior port is so important to the Gem State, Idahoans and Montanans have long understood that this isolated port facility is an economic lifeline. In fact, 200 years ago the Lewis and Clark expedition recognized the value of the river system connecting the region to the Pacific Ocean and the world.The current size of the dock restricts the movement of the port’s unloading crane to a relatively small area. Currently, the barge or crane must be repositioned several times to reach cargo, a long and cumbersome procedure. TIGER funding will be used to more than double the port’s existing 120 foot dock by adding another 150 feet. Extending the dock will allow the crane to move along the entire face of the dock and provide access to two barges simultaneously.

Maritime transportation is an economic engine for the entire nation, moving more than 18 billion tons of freight each year. President Obama understands the economic importance of the maritime industry. For the first time ever, this Administration put maritime on an equal footing with the other transportation modes when it came to funding, making this and many other good projects possible.

For example, in the first four rounds of TIGER grants, we awarded $354 million to support 25 maritime-related projects.

And just last month, the White House announced that as part of the We Can’t Wait initiative, the review and approval process for five major ports across the country will be expedited to get workers quickly back on the job rebuilding our maritime infrastructure.

The Port of Lewiston is a perfect example of how America’s interior ports and Marine Highways open up access to the world. The port already provides a critical economic link for this region. With targeted investments from TIGER, DOT is helping to strengthen that link, in Lewiston and across the nation.