Half of a $14 million federal grant awarded to the Maine Department of Transportation will soon be headed to the port facility at Mack Point, money that will be used to purchase a large crane and other cargo-handling equipment.

The grant is a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, the grant is one of 51 such grants awarded nationwide. The grant awards were announced Feb. 17.

Henshaw said there was a total of $1.5 billion in funding available for the TIGER grants, and that federal officials received approximately 1,400 proposals with financial requests totaling about $57 billion.

MDOT submitted a proposal seeking $32 million for five projects at three ports — Portland, Searsport and Eastport — and with the $14 million that was received, Henshaw said three of those five projects will be funded. He said that’s a good outcome, given the competitive nature of the grant process.

“We feel we did pretty well in getting the three that we did,” he said.

The $14 million will be split up as follows: $2 million will go to the port at Eastport to construct a warehouse, conveyor equipment and a storage pad; $5 million will be put toward capacity and infrastructure improvements in Portland and the remaining $7 million will go to Searsport.

The bulk of that $7 million will go toward the purchase of what is called a heavy-lift mobile harbor crane. According to Henshaw, this type of crane can be moved around to different locations and provides “significant lift capacity” for large pieces of project cargo, such as wind turbine components or large pieces of steel.

“The idea is to help the port further diversify its customer base and attract new customers,” said Henshaw. He said the fact that the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway line comes directly to the port is a big asset for attracting customers. Henshaw said Searsport is already a well-diversified port, and that the addition of this crane will allow it to become even more diversified, in terms of the cargos that are brought in and unloaded.

“There are a couple of smaller cranes at the facility currently,” he said. “This is a much larger and more capable crane.”

Searsport Town Manager James Gillway said the grant is a positive development because it gives Sprague Energy (the company that operates the cargo port facility in Searsport) the ability to move equipment that it previously couldn’t handle. That, in turn, will likely allow the railroad to move more product from the port at Searsport to various destinations. All of these things are good news for the town, according to Gillway.

“Anything that enhances our existing business and can potentially attract new business, we’re 100 percent behind that,” he said.

Maine’s congressional delegation all had positive things to say about the grant as well. In a press release, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud said the grant will help create increased port capacity, which he said is necessary to “move Maine’s economy forward.”

In a joint statement, Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said they had lobbied federal officials in support of the grant and were pleased to see the three “vital ports” receive the funding.

“Investing in Maine’s ports will help our state rehabilitate its economy, create jobs and provide Maine businesses with modern port facilities,” the senators stated in their press release.

Gov. John Baldacci also commented on the awarding of the grant, stating it will “enable Maine ports to make vital improvements that will help Maine businesses be more competitive.”

“I am pleased that Maine is receiving this vital support for our transportation infrastructure from the federal government,” the governor said in a press release.