Study Will Look At Upper Mississippi River Port Improvements
IEI Barge Services Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliant Energy Transportation (AET) of East Dubuque, Ill., announced January 18 that it is supporting a freight study to review the benefits of additional infrastructure at the area’s port terminals.
“The tri-state region of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin is bisected by the Mississippi River, yet studies show shippers use the asset less than similar regions elsewhere in the country,” said Jeff Woods, AET director of business development and marketing.
Improving the handling capabilities of area ports was one of several recommendations included in a regional, multi-state freight assessment completed in 2018. The study used quantitative and qualitative information to identify overall freight system needs in the area and suggest courses of action.
Among those was the need to help area industry lower shipping costs by improved access to the river or rail via new or improved intermodal, transload and consolidation facilities. Data suggest that could likely be accomplished through incremental expansion at existing port facilities.
“River terminals in the tri-state do a good job of supporting traditional bulk product shipments,” Woods said. “We are less adept at helping shippers use water, or even rail, to move higher-value products requiring special service or equipment. This includes containerized freight, bagged goods, break-bulk goods and project cargoes that rely on surrounding metropolitan hubs and over-the-road truck. The result is that local freight costs, as a portion of overall product costs, are higher than national averages, according to various studies.”
A market analysis will determine what can be reasonably captured with additional infrastructure at area ports, including capital expenditure requirements and ongoing operational costs. “The study will include significant cost-benefit analysis so we can make educated decisions as to whether the improvements are viable and sustainable,” Woods said.
The East Central Intergovernmental Association in Dubuque, Iowa, will lead the project team. The study is supported by private and public partners in both Iowa and Illinois. The group expects to release an RFP to consultants next month.