Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam

What would happen if something were to stop the flow of goods along the Upper Mississippi River? Researchers at the Mid-America Freight Coalition (MAFC), headquartered at the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explored the costs of failure of the systems that support freight shipments along this waterway. The results of their investigation have been released in a report titled, “Modal Investment Comparison: The Impact of Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam Shutdowns on State Highway Infrastructure.” The report provides guidance to states around the costs and benefits of infrastructure maintenance and investment decisions.

An important component of the Midwest economy, the Upper Mississippi River is responsible for the movement of over $88 billion in goods annually. This is a crucial mode of freight movement, especially for the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, which rely on the waterway to export their agricultural products and other raw materials. Unfortunately, the infrastructure that makes freight movement along this waterway possible is in a fragile state with many points of potential failure. The precarious situation begs the question whether the region’s states can afford to maintain the waterway infrastructure or, alternatively, take on the added expenses that would be incurred when other modes absorb displaced freight movement in the event of a failure.

Accumulated Traffic in Event of Lock Failure

This map shows how a failure in the lock and dam system along the Upper Mississippi River would result in a cascade of accumulating truck traffic along the region’s highways. The line thickness represents the millions of tons of agricultural exports from the affected states that would be forced onto highways on their journey to domestic and international markets.

“The Mississippi River is of vital importance to the economies of Iowa, the Upper Midwest, and the nation as a whole,” said Sam Hiscocks, Freight Coordinator at the Iowa Department of Transportation. “With agricultural exports expected to increase and the expansion of the Panama Canal shifting the amount of goods that can be shipped via ports on the Gulf of Mexico, the State of Iowa has a strong interest in the condition of the Mississippi River infrastructure.”

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Wisconsin Port Worker

Wisconsin’s marine freight system is a tremendous asset for both a strong economy as well as a healthy environment in the state. Research coming out of the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is helping multiple organizations and agencies target priority projects as they create and implement plans for the state’s freight infrastructure and economic development. Top among the priority projects identified were the state’s Marine Highways as well as repairs and upgrades to key ports. [click to continue…]

Barge Industry Calls for More Federal Funding

December 7, 2011

Several barge companies–including Ingram Barge Company of Nashville and Canal Barge Company of New Orleans–have started a public relations campaign touting the efficiency and sustainability of moving freight by barge on the nation’s waterways. Barge companies say rivers big and small need an estimated $8 billion worth of work. They hope to convince Americans that’s […]

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GLMRI to Study Environmental Issues Facing Shipping and Marine Transportation

December 5, 2011

The Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute (GLMRI), a consortium of the University of Wisconsin-Superior (UW-S), and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) have received a five year cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration (MARAD), to address environmental issues that face shipping and marine transportation. GLMRI studies funded by MARAD will […]

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Duluth Ranked Top Port in North America by RICA

June 27, 2011

Courtesy of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority Duluth, Minn. USA – When the Railway Industrial Clearance Association (RICA) handed out its Port Service Awards for North America this year, the Port of Duluth took top honors – sitting in first place, along with the Port of Mobile, in the Association’s final rankings. In two of […]

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Great Lakes Maritime Transportation Teacher Institute

June 20, 2011

Great Lakes Maritime Transportation Teacher Institute Door County, Wisconsin June 20-24, 2011 Nineteen participants from all over Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio will explore the historical, economical and environmental aspects of Great Lakes shipping in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Participants will learn about the Port of Green Bay, visit a NOAA weather station and the Neville […]

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Summer 2010 Maritime Education Workshops

April 15, 2010

The Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute and CFIRE co-sponsor the Summer 2010 Maritime Education Workshops for K-12 teachers to learn about shipping and commerce on the Great Lakes.

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