Tradepoint Atlantic — the massive redevelopment project at the former Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore County — will get $20 million from the federal government to upgrade its port facilities, officials announced Wednesday.
The money comes from a U.S. Department of Transportation program that funds projects that can spur economic development.
The project will include upgrades to Tradepoint’s port — specifically, the east-west berth — to make it easier to bring in ships with bulk cargo and transfer the goods to trucks or railroad cars for shipping, the company said.
As the steel industry suffered and the mill closed down, much of the 3,100-acre property’s utilities and infrastructure — including the port — was neglected. All of it needs to be upgraded, Tomarchio said.
“It’s a repositioning of an industrial site for the 21st century,” he said. “It was a blighted industrial site that needed reinvestment.”
The $20 million grant will pay for only part of the work. Tradepoint will pay the rest — about $30 million.
Even without the port upgrades, Tradepoint handled 1.7 million tons of bulk material at its port in 2016 and 2.5 million tons in 2017. The cargo included lead ingots, organic feed grain, coal, gypsym and zinc.
The company’s grant application had the support of the county and state governments and the entire Maryland delegation to Congress.
“This is exactly the jobs-producing investment that our constituents want and expect from the federal government,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat whose district includes Sparrows Point.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan called the announcement “tremendous news.”
“We look forward to seeing the jobs that will be created because of it,” he said.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who is running for governor, said the federal grant will help in “speeding up the turnaround of Sparrows Point from a shuttered steelmaking site into a modern hub for global commerce.”
After the Sparrows Point steel mill closed for good in 2012, Kamenetz convened a group to evaluate options for the property. The Sparrows Point Partnership laid out a blueprint for using the site for shipping, manufacturing and distribution. Tradepoint Atlantic is largely following the plan.
The Tradepoint project is called MAMMOTH: Mid-Atlantic Multi-Modal Transportation Hub. Company officials have said that the port upgrades and dredging would happen regardless, but that receiving the federal grant would speed up the pace of the work.
The grant will be awarded to the Baltimore County government, which will administer the money over four years. The county is not offering any county taxpayer dollars to the Tradepoint marine improvements project.
For more than a century, the Sparrows Point peninsula was home to a mill that operated for most of that time under the ownership of Bethlehem Steel. After a series of ownership changes, the mill shut down in 2012 when then-owner RG Steel went bankrupt.
Tradepoint Atlantic aims to transform the into an industrial and transportation hub. Most of the old mill buildings have been demolished, replaced by vast warehouses for companies such as Under Armour, Amazon and FedEx.