Sen. Van Hollen tours Port of Baltimore
Dredging, infrastrure head priority list
As a new member of the Appropriations committee in Washington, Sen. Christopher Van Hollen will have a say in how federal money is spent. That bodes well for the Port of Baltimore.
“I hope to be a great advocate for the Port, for Baltimore and Maryland,” said Van Hollen after a tour of the port late Tuesday morning.
Van Hollen, who succeeded Sen. Barbara Mikulski, is one of two Democratic senators representing Maryland in Washington, D.C.
One of his duties on the Appropriations committee will be reviewing requests for money to dredge Baltimore shipping channels, a key requirement for the Port, which is competing with other East Coast ports to accommodate supersize container ships now coming through the Panama Canal.
The current federal appropriation bill expires in April, and the committee is just now beginning to review it, he said.
“We’re working with the Army Crops of Engineers about depositing dredge materials,” he said.
Van Hollen also sits on the Senate budget committee, which is waiting to see President Donald Trump’s budget for the federal fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Three weeks ago, the Maryland delegation proposed to the Trump administration a blueprint for future infrastructure spending, something that Trump said he would do during his campaign.
Investment in repairing and replacing roads, bridges, water and sewer lines and rail lines will not only fix problems but also employ people in much-needed jobs, he said.
“I wish Congress had started out on a point of common ground rather than [divisiveness],” Van Hollen said. “I hope we can get to that point.”
“We’ve asked Republicans in the administration to join us in that effort,” he said.
While some have proposed paying for construction projects through publicprivate partnerships, Van Hollen said a significant public investment will still be needed.
“It can’t be solely through tax breaks,” he said.
In the meantime, Maryland has reapplied to federal Department of Transportation’s Fastlane program after being turned down the first time for money to expand the Howard Street tunnel in Baltimore to allow rail cars to carry one shipping container stacked on top of another.
“We’re working closely I hope with the new administration to access these funds,” Van Hollen said.
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, left, talks with Dave Thomas, deputy executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, and CSX’s executive Brian Hammock, right, during a tour of the Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals on Feb. 21.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, third from left, prepares to meet the press after touring the Port of Baltimore on Feb. 21. A Democrat, Van Hollen succeeded Sen. Barbara Mikulski in representing Maryland in Washington, D.C.
A mobile vehicle equipped with a boom scans shipping containers for illegal or undeclared cargo coming into the Port of Baltimore.