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Baltimore County, Tradepoint Atlantic seek $25M federal grant

Tradepoint Atlantic and the Baltimore County government hope to land a $25 million grant that would help pay to upgrade the port at the industrial campus in Sparrows Point.

The money could come from a federal program that funds transportation projects that can spur economic development.

Tradepoint Atlantic, the company that’s redeveloping the former Sparrows Point steel mill site in southeastern Baltimore County, would match the grant with $25.5 million of its own money.

The project at Tradepoint Atlantic is called MAMMOTH, which stands for Mid-Atlantic Multi-Modal Transportation Hub.

The project will make it easier for Tradepoint to bring in ships with bulk cargoes such as salt, coal, zinc and other raw materials, then transfer them to trucks or railroad cars for shipping, said Aaron Tomarchio, a vice president for Tradepoint.

The project also includes dredging that will allow larger ships to access berths at Tradepoint, Tomarchio said. Tradepoint currently has applications pending before environmental regulators for dredging.

Tomarchio said the improvements will help the company move cargo more effectively.

“We’re doing it today, but it’s not as efficient of an operation as it could be,” Tomarchio said.

The work will get done eventually, but the grant would speed up the process, Tomarchio said.

Both the county and state governments support the grant.

“This project will support critical improvements to the area — allowing full utilization of this deep-water port,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of the grant.

For more than a century, steel was produced at the Sparrows Point site, mostly as a Bethlehem Steel plant. After a series of ownership changes, the mill closed for good in 2012 when then-owner RG Steel went bankrupt.

Tradepoint bought the property in 2012 with the vision of creating an industrial and transportation hub on the 3,100-acre parcel, which includes access to two rail lines, the Baltimore Beltway and a port on the Patapsco River.

Tenants landed so far include auto importer Pasha Automotive, building materials distributor Atlantic Forest Products, a Harley-Davidson training school, a FedEx distribution center and an Under Armour distribution center that’s under construction. The county and state are lining up $2.2 million in financial incentives to convince Amazon to locate a warehouse at Tradepoint.

The county is not offering any county taxpayer dollars to the Tradepoint marine improvements project. If the grant is awarded, the county would administer the money over four years.

The federal government has $500 million available in the grants, called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, or TIGER. The deadline to apply for the latest round of TIGER funding was Monday.

All eight members of Maryland’s delegation to the House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting the application — arguing it would improve cargo traffic and increase access to consumer goods shipped through the Baltimore region.

Three of the eight lawmakers live in Baltimore County: Democratic Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes and Republican Rep. Andy Harris.

“With the Port of Baltimore at service capacity and continued increases in trade projected for the coming years as the area continues to grow, this project is an urgent, regional priority,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote.

Baltimore County did not secure the last TIGER grant it sought, a $26 million request to pay for rebuilding piers and bulkheads at the former Sparrows Point shipyard adjacent to Tradepoint Atlantic. US Wind has eyed that property for a wind turbine assembly project.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, approved subsidies in May for US Wind and Skipjack Offshore Wind to build turbines off the coast of Ocean City.

Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

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