The Illinois Department of Transportation is examining the way commercial freight ships on Illinois’ waterways. IDOT is asking the public formulate their new Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan and economic impact analysis study. The feedback will help shape strategies to strengthen a state resource that generates $36 billion in economic impact annually and supports more than 160,000 jobs.
IDOT Director of the Office of Planning & Programming Holly Bieneman says that IDOT is wanting to invest into the state’s vastly important waterways: “In 2015, we were directed by the Secretary at the time to get started reintegrating IDOT in to marine transportation throughout the state because of its roll in moving freight throughout the state. Freight is an important economic driver and Illinois is the Midwest hub of freight movement. It’s an important initiative for the department to keep a finger on the pulse and strategically invest to enhance freight movement throughout the state, and so part of that is the Marine Transportation System. 9% of Illinois freight moves on the Marine Transportation System which is not a huge amount, but enough definitely that we need to understand what we’re working with, take some inventory, look at the public port districts, look at the private terminals and make sure or understand how the department can effect movement of freight via this system.”
Bieneman says that the Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan is intended to guide IDOT’s planning and programming efforts to integrate the system in the state’s overall multimodal transportation network and identify where infrastructure dollars need to be spent: “We’re gathering information about what facilities we have, what commodities are moving, what freight is moving, how it’s moving, and then we did a forecast of what we think it will look like in year 2045 based on the data we have today. We’re looking to see if they think that forecast is acceptable based on what was done. We did an economic analysis where we identified direct and indirect employment per the because of the freight movement on the waterways and the use of the public port district. We’re testing the waters on our forecast here. We want to see how we do. You know we forecasted that the Illinois Marine Transportation System has an impact of 36 billion dollars on the economy in one year, and so we’re wanting input on that. We’re also wanting to raise awareness on this.”
Bieneman says that IDOT has not been involved in Illinois’ waterway system transportation in a number of years as far as investment and projects. She says the survey will help reintegrate the department back into the waterway system through programming recommendations provided by the public. Bieneman says that several other organizations and a guiding committee of over 30 individuals have provided input into the plan and now the public has their turn.
A draft of the Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan, an informational video and a link to the comment form can be found by visiting the link attached to this story on our website. Feedback and comments will be collected until December 11th.