Investments strengthen midwest ports

Pictured is the Kaskaskia Regional Port District’s KRPD 1 Terminal in rural New Athens. 

More than a half a billion dollars in recent, current or expected improvements at three midwestern ports will strengthen these facilities and reinforce their important roles in the global freight network. 

The significant investments at Port KC, America’s Central Port, and Kaskaskia Regional Port District, along with new infrastructure funding recently secured, will spur an increase in barge services and deliver cost efficiencies that drive profitability for the industry. 

The Kaskaskia Regional Port District serves both the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers in southwestern Illinois. Both state and federal grant dollars allowed for a strategic plan to be created for the overall port and each terminal location, identifying needed improvements for which they were subsequently able to secure additional funding or expect to. 

KRPD General Manager Ed Weilbacher said those projects include construction of a second entrance road at KRDP 2, a second rail loop at KRPD 1 to accommodate two million tons of additional outbound product, safety improvements to railroad crossings, enhancements to the rail yard and more. 

In all, the investments will total more than $30 million. 

KRDP is also partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on modifications at the Jerry F. Costello Lock & Dam in Modoc to make it more resilient during high-water events. That project just received $10.4 million for upgrades that will begin later this year. 

KRPD is also working cooperatively with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a Section 107 Harbor study, and that is a 50/50 cost share program that will likely lead to construction in the coming years due to the initial cost-benefit ratio.

Weilbacher said the recent designation of the Kaskaskia River in Illinois as a Marine Highway Route was driven partially by a new company that is expected to ship an additional 1.2 million tons of coil steel inbound for processing. 

The new route will include existing freight traffic between the terminals on the Kaskaskia River and the Mississippi River and in turn open new opportunities to leverage private investment through public and private partnerships and support supply chain resiliency efforts.

All three port operators agreed how important collaborating with other partners, users of their facilities and others around them is as well as with the Corps of Engineers. 

They praised grant funding of upwards of $80 million that the Corps of Engineers secured to reduce flood risk by further strengthening levees in southwestern Illinois in the St. Louis region to higher current standards. 

Another timely accomplishment for the Metro East Levee System, which consists of five levees in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, was the final letter of accreditation received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in April acknowledging the levees now meet 100-year flood levels.

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