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    Port chief's not giving up

    The city’s ports director is hoping for a lifeline after the feds sank her her hopes for nearly $43 million in “TIGER” money.

    Port Authority Executive Director Judith Sheiffele hoped the money would provide an anchor for a number of projects in the ports area.

    Her projects were among the 23 state applications, totaling $630 million, that were all skunked for federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) funds last month.

    But she said this week she sees a little light on the horizon because of a meeting to be held in the next few weeks with federal officials on how to prepare for another round expected this autumn, she said Monday.

    She will report on the TIGER-funds loss and her hopes for the next round at the authority’s scheduled meeting Thursday.

    “I was very disappointed, but I am a little more hopeful because of the meetings” arranged through U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s office, she said.

    “Normally, nobody gives you any feedback” on the reasons a grant request is not granted, she said. Each of the projects would be reviewed at the meetings, which should take place in the next few weeks, she said.

    DeLauro met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week. “The secretary committed to having [federal transporation] officials get in touch with each Connecticut applicant to provide feedback on their request for the next round of funding,” DeLauro’s press secretary, Kaelan Richards, said in an email message Wednesday.

    “We have relayed this information to the city of New Haven at the staff level, and Rosa will be in contact with the mayor about it as well. We will, of course, stand ready to help facilitating these discussions between the DOT and the port authority if need be,” she said.

    The projects’ lynchpin would have been the reconstruction of Waterfront Street. That would have allowed rail spurs to be extended from a rail line running along the east side of the street to the gates of Magellan and the New Haven Terminal. Each of those has developed plans to extend the rail lines to their giant tanks that hold millions of gallons of various petroleum products, Sheiffele said.

    She said the two businesses had drawn up plans to continue the rails inside the properties, and the city had invested $20,000 in plans for the Waterfront Street work. Because all the planning had been done and the projects were “shovel-ready” as required by the stimulus fund rules, both public and private entities had high hopes that the grants would be funded.

    She had to call the businesses and tell them it was not to be, at least not now.

    “Those were not easy calls to make,” she said.

    Calls to Magellan and New Haven Terminal seeking comment were not returned.

    The grant also would have paid for the building of a warehouse on Port Authority property on the east side of the harbor and a movable crane that the authority could have rented out. The authority had hoped to lease space in the warehouse to shippers who wanted covered space to store commodities that had been shipped to New Haven or were due to be shipped out. That space now does not exist, Sheiffele said.

    Another part of the project would have paid for the construction of a seawall in the former U.S. Steel site on the north end of the Port Authority property. That seawall or bulkhead would have prevented the land from leaching into the harbor and would have provided a place for barges to tie up.

    Members of the state’s U.S. Congressional delegation met with federal officials last month to express their displeasure with the state not getting a dime of the $1.6 billion in TIGER funds sent to 41 other states. And state Department of Transportation chief Joseph Marie (pictured), Tuesday pledged to find out why the state did so badly and how to make it better next time.

    Appearing before the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, Marie promised that the DOT will be ready when the $600 million in TIGER applications are due in the fall. He said his agency will “debrief” with federal officials to see what must be done. He said the first of those meetings could take place in the next few days.

    By Leonard J. Honeyman

    It's Your Town. Read All About It.
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    It's Your Town. Read All About It.

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