Thursday, March 1, 2012

Illinois River to Become International Waterwaywith Development of TransPORT Marine Terminal

The Heart of Illinois Regional Port District (TransPORT) is moving forward with development of a public international marine terminal along the Illinois Waterway. This public port will enhance the movement of products manufactured in Greater Peoria and sold to world markets. TransPORT Chairman Dan Silverthorn says the new port would be able to handle a variety of cargo including dry and liquid bulk, manufactured goods and rolling stock such as road building equipment, mining machinery and agricultural implements.

TransPORT has executed a memorandum of understanding with Aventine Renewable Energy, Inc. to acquire an approximately seven acre parcel of land along the Illinois Waterway at Pekin. Silverthorn says elected officials in Tazewell County and the City of Pekin have been especially helpful to this point and work is currently underway to secure this site. The project is consistent with the TIF (tax increment financing) Redevelopment Plan undertaken by the City of Pekin.

"Building a public port is a complex process because waterfront development is heavily regulated," TransPORT Executive Director Steve Jaeger said. "The project is in the permit application stage right now with agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We also need to complete purchase and development agreements with our partners at Aventine. The intent is to begin construction in 2013 with the port opening 12 months later." This initial phase of this project is estimated at $8 million and will be financed through a combination of public and private funds. This includes the issuance of revenue bonds by TransPORT with the debt to be retired via cargo handling fees derived from users of the terminal. Public funding would come from various grant programs which TransPORT is aggressively pursuing.

TransPORT will engage a management company to operate the port when it opens, resulting in 20-30 jobs at the port initially, with an additional 10-20 secondary jobs created in related fields such as trucking and barge operations. More growth is expected over time because ports are considered long term and permanent economic drivers. "The transportation industry is the 2nd fastest growing industry in the country and these jobs are non-exportable" Silverthorn declared. "This is really a win/win for our region."

This port development initiative is the second significant project to be announced this year in Tazewell County, coming on the heels of Excel Foundry’s announcement of a plant expansion and improvements to access roads.

Jaeger explained the TransPORT region is well positioned geographically as the northernmost location on the river system capable of ice free navigation 365 days per year. The region also has a diverse base of manufacturing and industrial consumption which fits favorably with the requirements of balanced trade on the inland waterways. "This port will allow our region to compete more aggressively in the transportation and logistics industry and with the coastal ports being full, it helps position us to become a ‘go to location’ as they may be looking to expand operations or alleviate traffic in their saturated systems."

This project also coincides with a recently completed analysis of moving manufactured goods by river barge from the Peoria region to deepwater ports on the Gulf of Mexico. The U. S. Maritime Administration identified robust prospects for commercializing barge transportation for heavy industrial products between the Peoria-Pekin region and coastal export hubs that will be enhanced by the reopening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014.

For more information on this project please contact Steve Jaeger, Executive Director of TransPORT at 309-495-5918 or email sjaeger@h-p.org. For more on TransPORT visit www.portdistrict.com.

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