America’s inland ports are gaining importance as trillions of dollars of goods and services are moved throughout the arteries of the nation’s transportation network. Years ago, Illinois in the Joliet region and Ohio at Rickenbacker airport became distributor hubs for economic development, and now landlocked Iowa and Utah are embarking on plans to build inland ports. The reasons why dry ports are gaining importance are numerous, among which are e-commerce, rising freight congestion on the coastal seaports and as part of improving the United States’ multimodal freight systems for national, regional and metropolitan economic development.
Inland ports are an integral part of upgrading and expanding the nation’s multimodal infrastructure. The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), a Washington, D.C. 60-member public and private organization, revealed some startling statistics in their call for a “strategic campaign of infrastructure investment.” The cost of congestion for domestic manufacturers was a loss of $6.5 billion in 2014 in sales of $4.4 trillion. In January, CAGTC published their second edition booklet of “Freight Can’t Wait” which lists in detail 43-United States’ freight projects needing federal partnership. By region, the West has 20, the Central has 9 and the East has 14. Listed highway and bridge projects needing funding and construction will be necessary to inland port development.
A rail trans-load facility or “Railport” located in Des Moines, Iowa is one of the 43 projects. The site is located at the cross roads of I-35, a primary North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) corridor, and I-80, an interstate route connecting New York and San Francisco. This 1500 feet by 600 feet $12 million project is planned on 30 acres of city-owned property and a “unique site because of access to three Class I railroads: Union Pacific (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Norfolk Southern as well as Iowa Intrastate Railroad,” according to the rail market analysis and feasibility project reports. The current rail trans-load facility has limited tracks for UP only and the proposed site will be for industrial development with better handling capacities. John Deere is interested in the new Railport since they have finished goods manufacturing nearby of farm equipment (balers) for domestic distribution and exporting. “We are in the implementing stage and past the reference for proposal (RFP) stage, now. We hope to have an operator this year and have no construction, yet,” said Gunnar Olson and Zach Young of the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, in a recent interview with the American Journal of Transportation.
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