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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Office of Ports & Waterways

A well-lit port at night.

There are more than 300 ports in the United States, and they are all different. Ports may be operated by a state, a county, a municipality, a private corporation, or a combination. Many ports are complex entities, involving facilities for transportation by several modes of transportation: water, rail, road, or even air. Ports are a vitally important part of the nationwide Marine Transportation System, which includes not only ports, but also inland and coastal waterways, and the inter-modal connectors. The Maritime Administration through it’s multiple programs provide expertise on port finance and port infrastructure, and has assisted major ports in their recent redevelopment plans.

The Office of Ports & Waterways was established to assist with port, terminal, waterway, and transportation network development issues:

  • Coordinating and managing port infrastructure projects for a variety of entities, including state, local, and territorial authorities.
  • Providing discretionary grant funding on a competitive basis for maritime infrastructure projects.
  • Leading national efforts to reduce congestion on the Nation’s highways and rails by promoting the use of waterways and ports.
  • Coordinating and directing studies, surveys, and investigations of port and inter-modal facilities, including recommending improvements in their operation and new locations and types of facilities and equipment that make the entire transportation system more efficient and productive.
  • Informing and advising organizations and individuals in the analysis of inter-modal economics, the development of applicable information systems, investigating institutional and regulatory impediments and the application of appropriate transportation management systems.
  • Informing the general public concerning the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and successor legislation.
  • Providing technical advice and education on ports to foreign countries, and furnishing foreign port information to the Congress and government agencies.

Click on the links below to go to the various program element pages within this Office.

Port Planning & Investment Toolkit

The goal of the Port Planning & Investment Toolkit project is to provide U.S. ports with a common framework and examples of best practices. This toolkit was produced as part of a cooperative agreement between the Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).

The analytical tools and guidance contained in this comprehensive resource are designed to aid ports in developing “investment-grade” project plans.  It also helps ports obtain capital for their projects in a variety of ways, including: metropolitan and regional planning organizations, state agencies, and federal assistance to qualify for formula funding or aid; and assisting ports in obtaining private sector investment.


All toolkit modules are intended to be used to help ports:

  • Evaluate port conditions
  • Define problems
  • Plan thoroughly
  • Navigate the pre-planning process
  • Engage private partners
  • Present actionable needs to administrators
  • Access available funding
  • Complete/Implement the project


The Port Planning & Investment Toolkit can be found at the following links:

Introduction and Users Guide

General Projects Module

ITS Module

ITS Overview – ePrimer version

Marine Highway Projects Module    


Introductory webinar is below:

The Port Planning and Investment Toolkit focuses on planning, funding and executing projects, with the goal of making navigating the best course of action to accomplish your goals easier and more user friendly than ever before. The new Marine Highway Projects Module of the Port Planning and Investment Toolkit provides an overview of America’s Marine Highway Program and how marine highway services can become designated projects by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It details how to plan a new marine highway service, determine feasibility and identify possible funding mechanisms. Learn more about the contents and purpose of the Marine Highway Projects Module in this webinar recording.



Last updated: Tuesday, September 5, 2023