Panel Explores Risks Of Interrupted Supply Chains

A distinguished panel presented a session at the recently concluded Inland Marine Expo (IMX) in St. Louis on the risks associated with interrupted supply chains.

It included Craig Philip, research professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Transportation Research (VECTOR); Bruce Lambert, executive director of the Institute for Trade and Transportation Studies in New Orleans; Tom McQueen, an assistant planning administrator in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Office of Planning; and Drew Ratcliff, regional disaster recovery manager for the Capital Region Planning Commission in Baton Rouge, La. The panel was moderated by Debra Calhoun, senior vice president of Waterways Council Inc. (WCI).

In introducing the panel, Calhoun reminded the packed audience that the inland waterways system’s 241 lock sites moved 557.8 million tons of cargo in 2016. Half the lock system is beyond its 50-year design life. The expected opening of Olmsted Lock and Dam this summer will ease a potentially crippling bottleneck in the system.

Lock Outage Study

Calhoun discussed the study released in October 2017 by the National Waterways Foundation (NWF), the research arm of the WCI, together with the Maritime Administration titled “The Impacts of Unscheduled Lock Outages,” which modeled the potential impacts of unscheduled closures at four locks on the system:

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• LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River;

• Markland Locks and Dam on the Ohio River near Cincinnati,

   which opened in 1959;

• Calcasieu Lock on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana, which opened in 1950; and

• Lock and Dam 25 on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, which opened in 1939.

The NWF is currently preparing a study on the advantages and disadvantages of public-private partnerships (P3s) for funding of infrastructure projects, Calhoun said.

Collapsed Highway Rebuilt

McQueen discussed the rebuilding of Interstate 85 in Atlanta in “record time” after its collapse in March 2017.

An area under the highway had become a homeless encampment, and a fire, started in an abandoned sofa, quickly spread until it engulfed the bridge, becoming hot enough to burn the concrete, weakening the support piers.  The site was a state-owned storage area that had stocks of high-density polypropylene pipe and other materials, which also burned. The fire spread rapidly; it was reported at 6:30 a.m., and the elevated bridge collapsed a half-hour later.

McQueen detailed the multi-agency effort that rallied together to rebuild the highway, meanwhile rerouting truck traffic in ways that resulted in minimal impacts to the spot-truck market. The rebuilding was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

Ratcliff spoke about the creation of the Louisiana Supply Chain Transportation Council, created by the Louisiana legislature in 2017 after Hurricane Katrina, the 2016 floods, and several other recent storms highlighted the need for greater coordination and planning in the region for extreme flood and climate events. The new group used the National Disaster Recovery Framework, released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2011, as a framework to plan coordinated responses among parishes and state agencies.