Merkley, Wyden, Hoyle: “Frustrated and Deeply Disappointed” that Port of Coos Bay’s Critical Shipping Container Project is Denied Major Federal Investments, Vow to Continue the Funding Fight

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and U.S. Representative Val Hoyle (OR-04), issued the following joint statement today after the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) did not select the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay’s request for a $1.25 billion Mega Grant, also known as a National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grant funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, in the first round of funding from the program that would have been used to create a major new West Coast container port in Coos Bay to address supply chain bottlenecks, boost the economy, and create thousands of good-paying union jobs:

“To say we are frustrated and deeply disappointed USDOT chose not to award a Mega Grant to the Port of Coos Bay for a new container port in the first funding round is an understatement. This essential project—which has an unprecedented broad base of bipartisan support—is the perfect fit for the program that was established to fund critical large projects that would otherwise be unachievable without assistance.

“Ships stacking up on the West Coast further fuel chronic supply chain issues, which are only expected to get worse as container flows in the region are projected to grow at a rapid pace well into the future. It is clear we need to modernize our nation’s port infrastructure without delay to address this crisis, just as it is clear the underutilized Port of Coos Bay provides a perfect solution. As the largest deep-water port between Puget Sound and San Francisco, expanding the Port of Coos Bay’s container capacity would immediately increase West Coast port capacity by up to 10 percent—nowhere else along the coast has that ability.

“The Port of Coos Bay’s ability to expand is further supported by an existing federal navigation channel, a rail line that connects to the Class I rail system, and hundreds of acres of undeveloped industrial land with quick and easy access to open ocean and international markets in Asia and beyond. This project offers the country a big boost in shipping capacity without a corresponding increase in carbon pollution, thanks to a number of carbon-reducing functions like cold ironing and ship-to-rail loading.

“While being passed over for a USDOT Mega Grant in this first round of funding is a huge blow, this is by no means the end of the vision to bring a container port to Coos Bay. We will continue fighting with every tool in our toolbox to ensure that USDOT greenlights this project for future funding opportunities while working with project leaders to push local, state, and national leaders to identify other funding streams needed to bring this container port online. The time is now to reduce the supply chain congestion on the West Coast, which will be a key factor to lower inflation and bring jobs and economic prosperity to Oregon’s South Coast.”

Senators Merkley and Wyden and Representative Hoyle recently met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to urge USDOT to support the project and expressed their disappointment in the Port of Coos Bay being passed over for a Mega Grant in the first round of funding. They strongly urged the Secretary to prioritize the project for future federal funding opportunities. Senators Merkley and Wyden have also been engaging in high-level conversations with the Biden administration and Congressional leadership over the past year regarding USDOT’s Mega Grant decisions, including a March 2022 Oregon delegation letter to and subsequent direct conversations with President Joe Biden and Secretary Buttigieg, where they championed the Port of Coos Bay’s application.

The Oregon delegation will continue to support the Port of Coos Bay in the application process for future funding consideration as they work with the Biden administration to navigate a possible path forward to invest in the realization of the critical project.