When President Joe Biden toured New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Harbor on Tuesday, he got a close look at an $18.2 million project completed this month to widen the Piscataqua River and allow larger ships to move through and deliver cargo.
The river is a critical piece of the area’s supply chain that transports goods like road de-icing salt, home heating oil and underwater fiber-optic cable.
And he highlighted the latest addition to that project: another $1.7 million from the infrastructure law to dredge the channel for maintenance reasons and keep things moving.
"Instead of turning away business, we're sending a message. This port is open for business and will be for a long time," the president said. "We're sending the same message through our investments in roads and bridges here in New Hampshire."
As Biden faces ongoing criticism about high prices and the backlogged supply chains contributing to those hikes, he’s continued to point to what he sees as the positive, as he did again on Tuesday: money is starting to flow out to communities from the infrastructure bill passed with bipartisan support last fall.
He took aim at former president Donald Trump's inaction on fixing things like roads and bridges.
"The last fella that had this job kept talking about infrastructure week," Biden said. "We have infrastructure decade."
The law invests $17 billion total to upgrade the country’s port infrastructure, and the Biden administration released a ports “action plan” back in November, though its major elements weren’t immediate fixes.
One part of the plan was to identify potential U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects within 60 days. So far, the administration has announced $13 billion in USACE projects out of the infrastructure law.
On Tuesday, Biden toured a completed project to widen Portsmouth Harbor’s turning basin from 800 feet to 1,200 feet, something overseen by the USACE last year.
Before the project, larger ships could only pass through “in ideal conditions, such as high tide, daylight and light winds,” according to a White House fact sheet on the visit. Ships would otherwise wait in the harbor after their deliveries, a costly delay.
"When you keep a ship in dock after the cargo has been delivered, it can cost $90,000 a day," Biden said. "And those costs can get passed on to you, the consumer."
The president will also travel to Seattle and Portland in the coming days, after visiting Iowa and North Carolina last week. Iowa and New Hampshire are historically the first
On Tuesday he took the opportunity to highlight other efforts within the infrastructure law — including to replace lead pipes and boost broadband internet access — as well as his proposals to raise taxes on billionaires and pass legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Asked about the political motivations behind the recent trips and his focus on infrastructure this week, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday: “The president is proud to go out in the country — in blue states, red states, purple states — to talk about his agenda."
“He’s also proud to go out and talk about his economic agenda that he's still fighting to get passed, which includes care, healthcare, eldercare, and reducing costs,” she said. “His view is that … standing up for his agenda and standing up for this agenda that will make the American people's lives better is a winning argument.”