April 19, 2021 2:45 PM, EDT

Illinois Makes $110 Million Available for Public Port Projects

Illinois Marine Transportation System imageIllinois Department of Transportation via YouTube

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Illinois officials announced $110 million is available for projects to improve public ports across the state.

Specifically, the department is looking for project proposals that aim to modernize the marine transportation system and improve ports.

“Rebuild Illinois is about investing in the long-term economic success of our state — and our public ports are critical to ensuring Illinois remains an economic engine for the nation,” said Governor Jay “J.B.” Pritzker. “Already, Illinois is a global hub for the nation’s commerce and transportation. This funding will allow the state’s ports to build on that status and further establish Illinois as a national hub for the shipping and logistics industry while creating earning opportunities for local residents.”

Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan supplied the funds that have been made available. Rebuild Illinois is an infrastructure improvement initiative approved in 2019 that is meant to support investment in roads, bridges, transit, education, state parks, historic sites and clean water infrastructure.

Illinois’ fuel tax rate doubled in 2019 as part of Rebuild Illinois, and rates increased again slightly in 2020.

The state’s current motor fuel tax rates are 46.2 cents per gallon for diesel and 38.7 cents per gallon for gasoline.

The funds are offered through the Illinois Port Facilities Capital Grant Program, which provides grants to public agencies to plan and develop facilities within public port districts that are included in the Illinois Marine Transportation System.

Illinois’ network of waterways includes 19 public port districts and more than 400 private terminals along the Illinois, Kaskaskia, Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Additionally, the Chicago metropolitan area has a network of waterways linking to Lake Michigan.

The state’s waterways present opportunities for fuel-efficient transportation, according to the Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan, which notes that inland barges provide the best ton-mile per gallon rates of all modes of transportation. (Ton-miles per gallon refers to how many miles 1 ton of freight is carried per gallon of fuel.) The plan indicates inland barges are about 4.5 times more efficient than truck freight and 1.3 times more efficient than rail.

The Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan determined the state’s ports generate $36 billion in economic activity annually and support 160,000 jobs. Leading commodities produced in Illinois include soybeans, corn, pigs, cattle, wheat and oats, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Omer Osman, IDOT Secretary


“Working together with our partners across the various modes of transportation leads to a stronger overall transportation system, creates jobs, improves quality of life and promotes economic opportunity,” acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “Under Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is making smarter, more strategic decisions when planning and programming projects. These grants will serve as another smart investment in our communities.”

All of Illinois’ 19 public port districts are eligible to apply. IDOT will accept project proposals through June 11. Grant proposals will be assessed on their ability to advance the Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan’s goals, which prioritize asset management performance-based decisions and projects that help economically distressed areas.

Some $150 million was identified in Rebuild Illinois for the state’s ports. Of that figure, $40 million has been dedicated to a help build a port in Cairo, the southernmost city in the state. Cairo is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

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