The port of Baltimore won a $10 million federal grant to build more access to rail, expand storage at Fairfield Marine Terminal, and help widen the channel at Seagirt Marine Terminal to accommodate bigger ships.

The cash – to be matched by a state grant of $19.5 million – will pay for upgrades that position Baltimore's busy port to compete with other East Coast terminals for cargo off the world's widest boats, which will soon be passing through a newly expanded Panama Canal.


Maryland's congressional delegation announced the U.S. Department of Transportation grant Friday. More than 568 applications totaling $9 billion in requests were received for this round's worth of $473.8 million grants, called TIGER 5 funds. The money is designated as investments in high-impact port, road, rail and transit projects.

"From the dock workers who unload the ships to the manufacturers who rely on cargo transported by the ships, the Port means jobs," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Plans for the project include using material dredged from the Seagirt channel to fill in an outdated wet basin at Fairfield, thereby creating 7.6 acres that can be used for car and heavy equipment storage.

The rail line that already serves Fairfield would be extended to the waterfront and storage area, allowing the terminal to increase its handling capacity. Baltimore is already the nation's top auto port.

Maryland twice before applied for the DOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Both bids were unsuccessful, and the state had to pay for the entire project upgrading the Masonville Marine Terminal.

This year, the state pledged more than the 25 percent match required in the application.

Gov. Martin O'Malley praised the grant award and called the port "one of our state's greatest economic engine."

Several other Democrats in the Maryland congressional delegation also hailed the award in a joint announcement released Friday. Sen. Benjamin Cardin said with the grant, "we are ensuring that the Port of Baltimore is well positioned for the future."