States Look to Improve the Mississippi River System

With the ice is melting, many of the MAFC states are preparing for the 2015 navigation season. Two recent meetings brought together public and private stakeholders with an interest in improving maritime freight on the Mississippi River system.

Upper Mississippi River System Ports, Terminals, and Operators Workshop

The Upper Mississippi River System Ports, Terminals, and Operators Workshop brought together public and private maritime freight stakeholders from five Midwest states (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin). This workshop, held at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa, was co-hosted by Inland Rivers, Ports, and Terminals (IRPT), the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMBRA), and the Mid-America Freight Coalition (MAFC). This workshop aimed to:

  • Develop and strengthen regional collaboration of the Upper Mississippi’s ports, terminals, and operators, as well as governmental and private sector river stakeholders.
  • Discussion opportunities for Upper Mississippi ports, terminals, and operators  under new state and national initiatives, including the M-35 Marine Highway designation, the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Delivery Act, and states and national freight transportation plans.
  • Identify priorities and actionable items for strengthening and expanding the Upper Mississippi’s ability to effectively and efficiently move commerce, including new or expanded services and advocacy needs.

MAFC Program Manager Ernie Perry facilitated this meeting and helped the 70-plus group of attendees to develop a strategic agenda for Upper Mississippi infrastructure improvements, with an eye toward creating implementation teams. Researchers from the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure (CFIRE) conducted a survey to support the discussion and Perry presented the survey results.

UMBRA has also published a summary of this meeting.

Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Meeting

On March 5-6, Perry teamed up with Cheryl Ball (MoDOT) and MARAD to convene a ten-state meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. This meeting, held in conjunction with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), focused on understanding and planning for container on barge (COB) shipping. Perry gave a presentation on the Economics of Water Transportation and facilitated the discussion on the second day of the meeting.

“It’s clear that states are taking the lead to fix and manage the Mississippi River system,” said Perry. “Taking a systems approach to both constraints and opportunities demonstrates that improvements in the Upper Mississippi basin benefit the entire system, and vice versa.”

Next Steps

Representatives of both the Inland Rivers, Ports, and Terminals (IRPT) and the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) will use the results of these meetings when speaking with USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx on March 19 about the need for coordinated attention to maintaining and improving the infrastructure of the Mississippi River system. Further, the states and stakeholders involved in both meetings are ready to keep up the momentum for greater development on the Mississippi River.

“The Great Lakes and the Upper, Middle, and Lower Mississippi states all think that they have the key to fixing congestion and environmental issues while increasing economic development,” said Perry. “Do the waterways hold the key?”