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A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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May 2016
Infrastructure problems cost families      

     It’s costing us all money – that’s what UMWA members and others concerned by the country’s deteriorating infrastructure take away from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest update on its “Failure to Act” report. ASCE says the cost of infrastructure related problems takes thousands out of every family’s pocketbook and also negatively affects the quality and quantity of jobs.
     “From 2016 to 2025, each household will lose $3,400 each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies,” the updated report says. “The projected investment gap will potentially lead to 440,000 fewer jobs in 2025 and almost 1.2 million fewer jobs in 2040 than would otherwise be expected with modernized waterborne transportation systems in place. By 2025, the nation will have lost almost $800 billion in GDP, while the cumulative impact through 2040 is expected to be almost $2.8 trillion of GDP.”
     The 2016 Water Resources Development Act, which is intended to help reverse the deterioration in waterway infrastructure is moving in Washington and House and Senate leaders hope to have a completed bill before summer recess.
     WRDA 2016 is also aimed at getting Congress back on an every-two-year schedule for water appropriations bills.   S2848, WRDA 2016 was introduced in late April in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and passed April 28 by a vote of 19-1. It’s expected to come up for a full Senate vote before the end of the month.
     The House hasn’t released its draft legislation, but leaders there say they too want to pass WRDA before going home for the summer.
Insiders say water infrastructure spending and WRRDA bills have received strong bipartisan support, which is a good sign in an election year.

 
(Above) Sidewalk superintending has gone high tech.  Thanks to a Minnesota Department of Transportation website with live webcam, you can watch work on the new St. Croix River bridge near Stillwater from anywhere.  The above picture was taken by Hank Zwart of the City of Prescott, Wis., and shows bridge deck segments traveling by barge to the construction site.  Zwart was fascinated watching the pilot skillfully navigate a sharp left-hand turn in strong currents.

 
From the Executive Director...

Editor’s note: 
     Bi-State Development, a St. Louis area public-private partnership that promotes the area’s transportation resources, has recently formed the St. Louis Regional Freightway and charged the new entity which doing a better job of promoting St. Louis as a port.
     Freightway Executive Director Mary Lamie says the region has undersold itself.  Reading about that brought to mind a 2015 column by UMWA’s Executive Director about efforts on the Upper Mississippi to do something similar to promote the Upper River’s under-realized environmental and economic benefits.  Here is that column from April 2015:

Upper Mississippi River states know waterways
     In 2014, Minnesota DOT released its first-ever Statewide Ports and Waterways Plan – recognition of the vital role its commercially navigable waterways play in the state’s current economic viability and its future challenges.
     For years, neighboring Iowa has been a long-time leader in advocating the merits of commercial navigation and encouraging fact-based waterway investment decisions.
Then, this past December, Wisconsin initiated a plan to advance the recognition of water transportation in the state’s economic future, the Wisconsin Commercial Port Development Initiative (WCPDI).

Partnership touts value of water transport
     The objective of the WCPDI, a university and multi-agency partnership, is to support increased freight movement and logistical development at Wisconsin commercial ports and to raise public awareness of its importance as an economic generator.
     According to the Initiative, more than 47 million tons (the equivalent of 1.9 mil-lion fully loaded trucks) moved through Wisconsin’s lake and river ports annually during the period of 2006-2012.
And, as if to echo the statements of UMWA and others in arguing against lock closure as an Asian carp solution, or campaigning for more funding for waterway transport infrastructure, “the state and the nation” said the Initiative, “simply do not have the highway capacity, time, or even available truck drivers to manage that much additional freight.
     And with rail capacity now challenged by the increased volume of energy products, the additional 433,000 rail cars that would be needed to move [Wisconsin port] cargo would further overcrowd an already congested rail system.” And, it continued, these numbers reflect only cur-rent levels of freight activity; they do not take into account ways to increase freight capacity at Wisconsin ports to leverage the economic potential of unused waterway capacity.

Reflects unresolved issues
     While the above Initiative was developed to underscore Wisconsin transportation issues, it accurately reflects unresolved water and land transport problems nationwide.
     For example, the Initiative states the highway and railway freight systems are at a tipping point not only in Wisconsin, but the Midwest and across the entire nation.
     According to the Federal Highway Administration, overall freight tonnage is expected to increase by 40 percent by 2040. (President Obama said he looks to double U.S. trade in 25 years.) While much of this growth is expected to occur in the trucking industry, it is unlikely that highway capacity can or will be expanded to meet the growing needs.
     In Wisconsin, according to Initiative, travel time and delay create unreliable scheduling times on 9 of 28 urban freeway corridors.
     A nation-wide study revealed that traffic congestion consumes 1.9 billion gallon of fuel, costs each driver $713 while spending 34 hours per year stuck in traffic; specifically, bottlenecks cause 40% of traffic delays.

Staggers Act
     When the 1980 Staggers Act eliminated economic regulation of railroads, redundant rail lines were eliminated throughout the country. Wisconsin, said the Initiative, lost more than 1,200 miles of lines through abandonments resulting in a decline of rail service at intermodal connectors such as ports. This single act thoroughly disrupted the historic alliance between railroads and marine freight.
     As a consequence of this disruption, the state is left with only two rail intermodal facilities – both of which are landlocked – making the movement of cargo by water to a rail destination much more complicated. Authors of the Initiative and other interests have identified the lack of rail access at ports as a significant shortcoming of the Wisconsin port system.
     The Initiative concludes that Wisconsin's commercial ports on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River offer broad, but not easily accessed opportunities. To rectify this, the Initiative offers an overarching master plan to identify projects that will make better and more use of Wisconsin ports and marine assets.
     To this end, the Initiative focuses on the State's seven most significant and active freight ports: 5 on the Great Lakes (Superior, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Marinette and Manitowoc), and 2 on the Mississippi River (La Crosse and Prairie du Chien).
     However, in order to continue the focus on marine investments, those in-vestments must be identified and marketed to agencies, the legislature, and state businesses and industry.
In the final analysis, the most significant message throughout the 200-page report might be para-phrased in Econ 101 fashion:
     Logistics and freight movement are competitive. States and even corridors are competitive in their work to secure markets and the resultant economic development. Programs developed by the WCPDI are a first step in an ongoing effort to advance Wisconsin [or any other port sys-tem] as freight and logistics hubs.
Report is available at http://www.wistrans.org/cfire/documents/WCPDI_FinalProjectReport.pdf  (16MB)

 
Other items of interest 

*  Safety concerns and logistics concerns keep Lock and Dam 4 closed to the public most of the time, but to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Corps’ St. Paul District, the public was invited to tour the structures April 29.  The heavily attended tours included the lock control room and a walk out to the dam to see the machinery that operates the dam’s roller gates.
 

*  St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer John Autey recently captured a series of beautiful images of the Twin Cities from the air.  Several shots capture the beauty of the area’s rivers and also show the navigation industry at work.

*  Thanks to carrying capacity made possible by waterborne transportation, the historic piers for the Franklin Avenue Bridge have been pulled from the river and await future reuse.  The Minneapolis bridge will remain closed to vehicles through the summer and recreational boaters are advised to steer clear of the area’s cofferdams and work crews.  The Park Board says the big stones may be used in the renovation of the Bohemian Flats park.
  

*  A container ship will be the first vessel to pass through the new sections of the Panama Canal when it opens in June, highlighting the growing container shipping market. The Andronikos, a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship belonging to the China Cosco Shipping Corporation (COSCOCS), was selected by lottery.
 

*  Camgian Microsystems says it will be running “smart infrastructure’ for the Corps of Engineers on the Ohio River.  The software company says it has improved, “safety and reduced downtime of… locks, dams, bridges and levees.”
 
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