Why the U.S. Department of Transportation is investing millions in the Port of Aberdeen

ABERDEEN, Miss. (WCBI) – On December 23, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Aberdeen is receiving $4 million as part of its initiative to improve American ports.

The Port Rail Spur Connector Project will provide direct access between the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

“The work that we do down here on this dock will change our community for a generation,” says Mayor Charles Scott of Aberdeen.

That’s the kind of potential Mayor Scott says he sees in the Port of Aberdeen. It’s what drove him to apply for the grant from the DOT in April of 2021.

“What we need and what we want is to have a more vibrant port that actually serves the area in all the other commodities that’re available,” he says.

The Department of Transportation awarded $241 million in grants to 19 states and one territory as part of the Port Infrastructure Development Program to improve the nation’s supply chain.

“A lot of people, when they think about supply chains, they’re picturing some of those big coastal ports in California,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “And of course, that’s very important but just as important are places like the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Those inland ports and what we call marine highways.” 

The money will go towards laying 12,200 feet of new rail spur in Aberdeen.

“This is about getting goods where they need to be and making sure we do it efficiently and on time,” Secretary Buttigieg says. “That’s why it’s important for us to be supporting places like the port there in Aberdeen.”

Mayor Scott also previously received a grant for dock upgrades at the port.

“The goal is to take care of the dock, make it usable and have the rail infrastructure that allows us to connect the railway in here too,” he says.

Currently, the Port of Aberdeen sees about 30 vehicles a day. After finishing the dock and railway projects, the mayor expects 300 to 600 vehicles on a daily basis.

Secretary Buttigieg says these projects create plenty of immediate jobs.

“Just laying the rails, you can count a minimum of 50 some people that are going to be in here working in and around the port,” the mayor says.

As well as long-term employment opportunities as more companies set up shop along the waterway.

“We’re currently in conversation with several organizations that want to come in here,” Mayor Scott says.

It’s an investment in North East Mississippi designed to create a ripple effect across the country.

“This is laying the foundations for American economic competitiveness, really, for the rest of our lifetimes,” Secretary Buttigieg says.

Mayor Scott says the goal is to begin the rail spur project by late 2022 or early 2023 after they finish the dock project in October.

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