Kentucky Study Analyzes State’s Public Riverports
A new study costing up to $1 million is designed to help the state of Kentucky analyze its riverports and better position them for the future.
Metro Analytics has been selected as the consultant for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Kentucky Riverports, Highway and Rail Freight Analysis Study. State officials are working with the consultant to finalize the study’s scope, and the contract could be signed by the end of the month, said Jeremy Edgeworth, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s freight, rail and waterways coordinator.
In an initial phase, Edgeworth said the consultant must determine what freight is moving through the state and how that freight is being moved, as well as any potential growth on which the state may be able to capitalize. The study will also include identifying freight moving by trucks that might be suitable for transition to the river system to ease road congestion.
A second phase will look at each public port and its ability to handle potential new commodities, Edgeworth said.
“Part of the study is the consultants will be on the ground at the public riverports to assess infrastructure needs at the ports,” Edgeworth said.
Those site visits could begin as soon as the late spring or early summer, he said. He anticipated them including a series of stakeholder meetings.
A third phase will focus on how to best market Kentucky’s ports to industry.
Edgeworth visited with port officials in Paducah, Eddyville, Hickman, Owensboro, Henderson, Ashland and Maysville earlier this month and plans to visit the Northern Kentucky and Meade County ports soon to discuss the study’s benefits and answer any questions, he said.
The new study follows up on a 2008 study that focused on infrastructure needs and ultimately provided several industry recommendations, including the creation of the Kentucky Water Transportation Advisory Board, Edgeworth said.
The new study will go beyond that scope to help identify potential future markets based on current freight movement, said Greg Pritchett, executive director of the Henderson County Riverport. It will be of benefit to Kentucky’s regional public riverports and their industrial development partners as well, he said.
“The most direct benefit I think is it helps the Kentucky riverports identify a prospect list,” Pritchett said. Additionally, he said, “By getting some eyes looking at the current infrastructure of these public ports and possibly matching that with freight movement needs and possible freight transitions, it will help us determine what are the strong parts and what are the needs so we can attract business to the state of Kentucky.”
Ultimately, he said, the goal will be to fortify infrastructure and position the riverports and the state as a whole to better market Kentucky and each of the respective communities for potential economic development opportunities.
Edgeworth said the study is also the result of public port directors asking the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to partner with them to bring the resources and funding forward to help the state develop an action plan that would accelerate industrial growth, freight movement and warehousing in Kentucky. As a result, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development has a seat on the study’s steering committee.
“The big thing for this is we want this to be of benefit to the ports,” Edgeworth said, saying that the study is meant to provide definitive steps each port can take to bolster its position for the future. “We don’t want this to just be something that is thrown on a shelf.”