WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

Regional Cooperation Maximizes Modal Benefits

This week we report on efforts by the regional metropolitan planning agency for the greater Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern Kentucky area to seek information from the river industry to complete its new regional freight plan.

St. Louis, where The Waterways Journal is based, has its St. Louis Freightway group that similarly encourages cooperation and coordination among all the freight modes in the region. Its director, Mary Lamie, recently wrote about the potential for investment in container-on-vessel infrastructure to better strengthen the logistics chain against future disruptions like those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a few weeks, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative will have its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., to get mayors of river towns together with members of Congress and other movers and shakers to address the needs of the entire Mississippi River basin in a coordinated way.

We have been reporting on how the formerly isolated ports and terminals of the Upper Mississippi River have joined with each other and with some Illinois river ports to form new regional statistical port districts like the Corn Belt Ports.

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All these developments have two things in common. They all seek to take advantage of increased federal funding of infrastructure projects and to channel and guide that funding cooperatively and with broad vision rather than competitively.

These efforts also illustrate the health of American democracy on a regional and local level. We hear a lot of commentary bemoaning the “polarization” and “disaggregation” of American society, but these cooperative groups, pursuing specific regional aims, have all been formed within the past couple of decades.

They perfectly illustrate what Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French observer and chronicler of American democracy, was talking about when he praised the penchant of Americans for creating civic groups for particular purposes. De Tocqueville argued that civic associations contribute to the strength of America by fostering individual development, communal well-being and democratic sustainability. You might even call them part of the moral infrastructure of American life.