The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has confirmed the port will receive one of the nation’s 10 FASTLANE (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies) small project grants for 2017.
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor serves the largest steel-producing region in North America. Major cargoes handled by the port include steel, coal, limestone, fertilizer and grain.
Port operations generate an economic impact of $4.9 billion per year and support more than 39,000 total jobs.
The FASTLANE Discretionary Grant program is part of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to invest in highway, rail, port and intermodal freight and highway projects. FASTLANE applicants compete for funds and must detail the cost-effectiveness of the proposed project and the effect it will have on mobility in the state and region.
In August of this year, Secretary Chao told Congress the Department of Transportation was recommending approval of a $9.85 million discretionary grant for the port. After a 60-day review period, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved all the projects. The port will apply its grant is toward a $19.7 million infrastructure expansion that will increase cargo handling capacity and multimodal capabilities.
The port expansion will include construction of a new 2.3-acre cargo terminal with multimodal connections for handling cargo transfers between ships, barges, rail cars and trucks. In addition, 4.4 miles will be added to the port’s existing 14-mile rail network. Two new rail yards will create rail storage for 165 rail cars, accommodate a 90-car unit train and provide rail car switching within the port, which will improve operating efficiencies for port companies, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor says in a news release regarding the grant. Improvements to the west dock, including extending a retaining wall and paving a dock apron, will result in an additional 1,200 feet of usable dock space. The project scope also includes a new 6-acre truck marshalling yard that is designed to relieve congestion along port roads.
“With these investments, companies using water to move cargo will have new options for their inbound raw materials, outbound finished products and transferring shipments between ships and barges, rail cars and trucks,” says Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper. “Strategic investments in port infrastructure produce a foundation for long-term growth, bring a positive economic impact to the area and support trade throughout the state.”
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor says it handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2016, completing the highest three-year total in the port’s history. Ship traffic through the port was up nearly 20 percent for the first nine months of 2017, while total shipments were up nearly 11 percent compared with the same time last year.
“Indiana’s ports are critical hubs for jobs and economic growth and this expansion will help our state attract even more business to northwest Indiana,” Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb says. “This new investment will not only improve the region’s economic vitality but also the international competitiveness of our entire state.”
“Improving infrastructure is one of the best ways we can foster growth, and our federal and state governments continue to make investments to attract new business and help existing businesses expand,” says U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a member of the Senate Transportation and Commerce Committee. “Our ability to move raw materials and finished products is critical for economic success, and this FASTLANE grant will help our Lake Michigan port strengthen the Hoosier economy.”
U.S. Congressman Pete Visclosky adds, “This port is an essential component of a strong and growing northwest Indiana economy and these federal funds will help improve its ability to create jobs and generate additional economic activity throughout our region and our state.”