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Biden returning to Baltimore this week to visit port, tout infrastructure package

President Joe Biden will visit Baltimore this week — his second trip to the city in three weeks — and tout the just-passed infrastructure package and its effect on ports and supply chains, the White House said Sunday.

The president will tour the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.

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President Joe Biden talks with audience members during a break in a town hall at Center Stage last month.
President Joe Biden talks with audience members during a break in a town hall at Center Stage last month. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

He made his first visit to the city as chief executive on Oct. 21, when he answered questions at a CNN town hall held at Baltimore’s Center Stage theater.

The House of Representatives late Friday night gave final approval to legislation intended to improve roads, bridges, transit systems and broadband, and bolster Chesapeake Bay restoration.

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The measure will upgrade the nation’s ports and strengthen supply chains “to prevent disruptions,” the White House said in a news release announcing the Baltimore visit.

The White House said Saturday that the infrastructure package would address “decades of neglect and underinvestment in our infrastructure [that] have left the links in our goods movement supply chains struggling to keep up with our strong economic recovery from the pandemic.”

The $1 trillion infrastructure package was a point of contention between moderate and progressive Democrats in the House for months. The latter group wanted to see the infrastructure measures voted on alongside a score of social and environmental measures, which will likely be considered in the House later this month. Republicans largely opposed the infrastructure bill on account of its cost.

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The final bill contains $17 billion for ports, but it is unclear how much the Port of Baltimore will receive.

It comes as American ports, particularly along the West Coast, are experiencing a traffic jam that’s spurred price jumps for a number of products.

Last month, the Biden administration announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day to help clear a backlog of ships waiting to unload their goods.

Baltimore’s port has seen issues over the past few years, too. Two times in as many years, truck drivers have protested long wait times at the terminal to receive their cargo. But Sunday, port officials touted long-term investments in the terminal and said they haven’t seen the level of recent congestion hindering larger ports like Los Angeles’.

In September, four new cranes arrived at the port’s Seagirt Marine Terminal. The cranes, among the largest in the world, will allow longshoremen to unload larger containers from arriving ships two at a time. It’s part of an effort to bolster the port’s capacity that also includes a $466 million upgrade to the Howard Street Tunnel, which will allow freight trains leaving the port to carry containers stacked two-high, putting the terminal on par with its competition in New York, Virginia and South Carolina. That project will break ground later this year.

“We welcome President Joe Biden to the Port of Baltimore to survey ongoing berth construction projects, the 4 new Neo-Panamax cranes, the recently completed dredging operations and discuss future projects that will benefit from the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal,” said Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle in a statement Sunday.

With its proximity to Washington, Baltimore is a frequent destination for presidential visits.

Biden was scheduled to make his first trip to the city as president in March, which would have included a tour of the Emergent BioSolutions plant manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. But the visit was scrapped as the Gaithersburg-based company struggled with vaccine production. The East Baltimore plant contaminated thousands of Johnson & Johnson doses, rendering them unusable, and officials eventually documented numerous problems at the facility, from personnel training to waste disposal.

In April, Vice President Kamala Harris toured the mass vaccination site staged at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.

Former President Donald Trump visited Baltimore multiple times during his tenure. Trump spoke at a hotel in Harbor East to a gathering of U.S. House Republicans in September 2019. For Memorial Day in 2020, he spoke at Fort McHenry, and also made an appearance there during the Republican National Convention in August 2020.

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