- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden touted the benefits of investing in the nation’s infrastructure in a visit to Virginia Wednesday, highlighting a recent grant to the Port of Virginia that will increase its capacity and lessen traffic burdens.

The port was recently named a recipient of a $16 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant that will connect Norfolk International Terminals to Interstate 564. The goal is to help move cargo faster and alleviate traffic congestion near the world’s largest naval base, which is next door to NIT.

The grant will be matched by $16 million from the Virginia Port Authority, which is also using the money to help pay for a new intermodal gate at Norfolk International Terminals.

Once complete, officials say the project will re-route more than 700 trucks off neighboring residential streets and save about $4 million each year on highway maintenance costs. It’s also expected to increase terminal capacity by 1.2 million container units.

Biden spoke with port officials at Norfolk International Terminals about their top priorities before addressing those involved in the maritime industry at Nauticus Maritime Museum in downtown Norfolk.

“What most people don’t realize is that our economic maritime power is just as important to our economic security as our military maritime power is essential to our security. And again, that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said. “It is the single most important part of the economic chain that allows us to prosper. Shipping is the lifeline of our economic being.”

Biden noted that ports help create jobs far beyond the shore because manufacturers need to be able to get their products to other markets. He said the Port of Virginia is directly responsible for creating more than 343,000 jobs in Virginia.

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Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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