The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor will receive one of the nation's 10 FASTLANE small project grants for 2017, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has confirmed.
In August, Secretary Chao informed Congress the Department of Transportation was recommending approval of a $9.85 million discretionary grant for the port. After a 60-day review period, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved all the projects. The port's grant is part of a $19.7 million expansion of the infrastructure that will increase cargo handling capacity and multimodal capabilities.
"Indiana's ports are critical hubs for jobs and economic growth and this expansion will help our state attract even more business to northwest Indiana," Governor Eric J. Holcomb said. "This new investment will not only improve the region's economic vitality, but also the international competitiveness of our entire state."
The port expansion will include the construction of a new 2.3-acre cargo terminal with multimodal connections for handling cargo transfers between ships, barges, rail cars and trucks. In addition, 4.4 miles will be added to the port's existing 14-mile rail network. Two new rail yards will create rail storage for 165 rail cars, accommodate a 90-car unit train and provide rail car switching within the port, which will improve operating efficiencies for port companies. Improvements to the west dock, including extending a retaining wall and paving a dock apron, will result in an additional 1,200 feet of usable dock space. The project scope also includes a new six-acre truck marshalling yard that will relieve congestion along port roads.
U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, who wrote a letter of support for the Ports of Indiana application, said, "I was proud to support the Ports of Indiana application, because this major federal grant will allow Burns Harbor to move forward with an expanded, increasingly-efficient operation. I'm looking forward to seeing these upgrades in action because we know it will bring more economic opportunities to the region and our state."
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2016, completing the highest three-year total in the port's history. Ship traffic through the port was up nearly 20 percent for the first nine months of 2017, while total shipments were up nearly 11 percent, compared to the same time period last year.
"Improving infrastructure is one of the best ways we can foster growth, and our federal and state governments continue to make investments to attract new business and help existing businesses expand," said U.S. Senator Todd Young, a member of the Senate Transportation and Commerce Committee. "Our ability to move raw materials and finished products is critical for economic success and this FASTLANE Grant will help our Lake Michigan port strengthen the Hoosier economy."
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor opened in 1970 and serves the largest steel-producing region in North America. Major cargoes handled by the port include steel, coal, limestone, fertilizer and grain.
"I congratulate the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor for their diligence to successfully obtain this federal grant opportunity," said Congressman Pete Visclosky. "This port is an essential component of a strong and growing northwest Indiana economy and these federal funds will help improve its ability to create jobs and generate additional economic activity throughout our region and our state."
Port operations generate an economic impact of $4.9 billion per year and support over 39,000 total jobs.
"With these investments, companies using water to move cargo will have new options for their inbound raw materials, outbound finished products and transferring shipments between ships and barges, rail cars and trucks," said Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper. "Strategic investments in port infrastructure produce a foundation for long-term growth, bring a positive economic impact to the area and support trade throughout the state."