Increasing freight capacity and attracting more infrastructure investments are likely outcomes of a recent federal designation expanding the inland Corn Belt Ports to span five Midwestern states.
“We’re part of the multimodal transportation network. We’re trying to improve the network so it is beneficial for all users, and we want to increase funding opportunities to include the last mile to the waterways,” said Robert Sinkler, executive coordinating director of Corn Belt Ports.
Some of the inland ports with loading terminals dotting shorelines have been handling agriculture for over a century in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin but lacked a federal port designation enabling the tracking of cargo data.
“Roughly 300 ports are recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation and among these are just a handful of inland, linear ports. Four of those are in the Corn Belt Ports’ region,” Sinkler said. “Because we’re a commodity region, efficiency is not measured by ton miles necessarily. It’s really how close is a terminal to where grain is grown. You don’t want a truck to haul grain very far. It’s just not efficient to do that.”
These inland ports are located along a 200-mile segment of waterways and consist of private grain-handling terminals distributed in areas where grain is grown and produced.