Investing in NH infrastructure: What we know about President Biden's visit to Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — President Joe Biden’s visit to Portsmouth on Tuesday to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure law will feature a speech at the New Hampshire State Port Authority.

The White House announced Monday the president will arrive at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease before heading to the Port Authority, where his remarks are expected to begin Tuesday afternoon.

“The president will highlight how these investments will strengthen supply chains, keep goods moving to help lower prices for working families, and enable the U.S. to compete globally,” a White House announcement stated.

Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law last November. The White House touted it as legislation that will help rebuild American roads, bridges and railroads, improve access to clean drinking water and address climate change, among other needs.

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President Joe Biden speaks before signing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.

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Announcing Biden’s visit to the Port Authority, the White House said Portsmouth Harbor is the only deep-water harbor statewide and that it handles approximately 3.5 million tons and nearly $2 billion of cargo annually.

“The harbor also supports clean energy, as a staging and transport location for components of wind energy projects like towers, blades, and hubs, and for nuclear power plant components manufactured at Westinghouse Electric two miles away,” according to a White House statement.

The infrastructure law includes $17 billion to support the country’s port infrastructure, the White House stated.

“American ports are a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, but outdated infrastructure and the COVID-19 pandemic have strained their capacity and jeopardized global supply chains – which has caused delays and passed costs directly to consumers,” reads a prepared statement from the White House. “As the President continues to use every tool to help bring down prices for Americans, investments that strengthen domestic supply chains and move goods faster and more efficiently will help lower costs for families.”

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Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern pointed to the expansion of the Piscataqua River turning basin just beyond the Port Authority as an example of what infrastructure funding can achieve.

“It’s been a long time in America since we’ve had a focus on infrastructure,” McEachern said.

Conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, the project’s goal is to widen the turning basin in the river from 800 to 1,200 feet, a direct benefit to shipments entering Portsmouth Harbor. The project received an additional $1.6 million in federal funding from the infrastructure law, officially known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“Prior to widening the turning basin, larger ships would have to wait to move until ideal conditions, which caused delays and drove up commodity costs that were then passed to consumers, such as through higher home heating oil prices,” noted the White House spokesperson. “Together, these projects will allow the harbor to safely and efficiently accommodate larger ships and heavier loads of cargo, benefitting the regional economy and lowering costs for consumers.”

The Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2021 budget initially allocated $18.2 million for the project, which includes dredging the harbor.

“We benefit a lot and do a really good job of collecting and getting that money from the federal government and putting it to work,” McEachern said.

Biden’s return to New Hampshire

Biden last visited New Hampshire Nov. 16, 2021, when he traveled to Woodstock to discuss the infrastructure law, which he had signed the day before.

The president’s trip on Tuesday will be his first visit to the city since December 2019. Then in the midst of his third run for the presidency, Biden spoke with Seacoast Media Group’s editorial board at the company’s Pease International Tradeport office before the 2020 New Hampshire primary.

The president has frequented the seaside city numerous times before that.

When he was a senator running for the presidency in 2007, Biden spoke at the Seacoast Media Group office, where Democratic presidential candidates had been invited before him to speak in a forum series on campaign topics. In his forum, Biden spoke about the war in Iraq.

In this file photo from 2007, Sen. Joe Biden D-Delaware, then a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, spoke a forum at Seacoast Media Group in Portsmouth. Biden supporters Eileen Foley and her daughter, Mary Carey Foley of Portsmouth, are seen in the audience.

Twice in 2012, Biden, then vice president of the United States, came to Portsmouth. The first trip was a wintertime visit to a re-election campaign office, while his second stop came in September 2012 with former President Barack Obama, then-first lady Michelle Obama and then-second lady Jill Biden for a campaign event at Strawbery Banke Museum.

Gov. Chris Sununu will greet the president upon his arrival at the airport but is not planning on attending Biden’s remarks at the Port Authority, according to a Sununu spokesperson.

The Sept. 7, 2012 visit from President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, drew an estimated 6,000 people to Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH.

Portsmouth road closure

Market Street, between Submarine Way (home to the USS Albacore Museum) and Deer Street, will be closed from about 9 a.m. until roughly 4 p.m., according to Mike Maloney, the city’s acting police chief.

Maloney said he believes it will be the only major road closure during the president’s visit, which will feature at speech at the New Hampshire Port Authority, according to the White House.

No vehicular traffic will be allowed to pass through during the closure hours, except for residents and business employees at Nobles Island, he noted. City police and members of the Secret Service will set up security screening checkpoints near the area for residents and business employees working at Nobles Island.

In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Secret Service announced a drone flight restriction for Tuesday afternoon in Portsmouth, which will last from 1 p.m. until 4:15 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: President Joe Biden to speak in Portsmouth NH at Port Authority