The U.S. Transportation Department is awarding some $450 million in grants for port-related projects to bolster capacity and improve the movement of goods as the U.S. economy continues to be affected by congested supply chains, senior Biden administration officials say.

“We’re proud to announce this funding to help ports improve their infrastructure — to get goods moving more efficiently and help keep costs under control for American families,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. President Joe Biden, he added, “is leading the largest ever federal investment in modernizing our country’s ports, which will improve our supply chains and the lives of Americans who depend on them.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Applicants must show that their projects would improve the movement of goods through ports and comply with Biden administration goals on issues such as climate change, racial and gender equity and policies to promote building and buying domestically, the officials told reporters on a call.

Applications are due May 16, with awards expected to be announced in the fall. This is the largest ever investment in the Port Infrastructure Development Program, nearly double last year’s investment, the officials said. About $100 billion in awards from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been announced so far, with about $50 billion distributed through a program for states to deploy themselves.

Major U.S. ports, such as Los Angeles and Savannah in Georgia are eligible for the new funds announced on Wednesday, though 25% of the investment will be allocated for smaller ports.

Congestion and inefficiencies at the biggest U.S.ports, coupled with worker and truck-chassis shortages, have strained U.S. supply chains during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Americans kept spending through a Covid-19 spike and hot inflation, according to recent U.S. retail sales data.

The Transportation Department is to release a report this week on U.S. supply chains that will outline policy recommendations on the current crisis and problems that may arise in the future. The officials said the supply chain report is the first study of a system of systems that don’t always work well together.