Muscatine to create a port authority

MUSCATINE, Iowa (KWQC) – The City of Muscatine is announcing an initiative to provide an opportunity for the city to form a port authority and install an intermodal container port for import and export shipments by using barges on the US Inland Waterway System. The project would provide Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois with greater access to world markets using water transportation via the Mississippi River.

Community Development Director Dave Gobin presented the project idea to the Muscatine City Council at Thursday night’s city council meeting.

Gobin explained Muscatine’s significant opportunity in forming a port authority. He noted that Muscatine’s positioning in the middle of the United States, with local access to the Mississippi River, rail, warehousing and truck transportation, provides a significant logistical advantage and cost savings for local industry. There are currently no intermodal container ports on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.

Intermodal is freight carried both domestically and internationally in an interchangeable container using multiple modes of transportation (e.g. truck, rail and barge), without the handling of freight itself when changing modes. Essentially, the containers are filled with freight and are then moved from one mode of transportation to the next on the way to their final destination.

Several area industries have expressed interest in the usage of a future port in Muscatine and Gobin has been in discussion with companies, such as Monsanto, Kent Corp, Alcoa and SSAB, as the project has been developing. Up to as many as many as 12-15 companies have serious interest and are giving general support for the project. The port would be able to handle both domestic and international exports and imports to the area. The intermodal containers would travel by barge on the Mississippi River to or from New Orleans or Houston, with access to global markets through the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Bi-State Freight Optimization Study, freight volumes over the next 25 years are projected to cause an increase in road and bridge maintenance costs from truck traffic and load weights as well as increase in truck traffic volumes, crashes and congestion. Utilizing a port as a key form of freight transportation could stabilize and alleviate future costs and safety issues.

“Installing a local intermodal container port will provide a significant economic impact to the region,” Gobin said.

The City of Muscatine’s plan is to convert an underutilized USACE permitted dock into an intermodal container port. To do this, the city plans to: identify potential port sites locally, establish a Municipal Port Authority, enter into a Public-Private Partnership with the property owner, raise funding from a variety of sources, including federal, state and private sources, apply for permits, construct and test port site, choose an operator of the intermodal port and finally, set up one or more Foreign Trade Zones.

“This project is a step in the right direction for Muscatine, its industries and the region as we move into the future,” Gobin said.

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