UPDATE: Port expansion expected to 'improve the region’s economic vitality'

NWI Times

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor landed a $9.85 million grant that will let it move more cargo, including more multimodal containers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation signed off on partial federal funding for a $19.7 million expansion that will boost the port's cargo handling capacity. The Indianapolis-based Ports of Indiana, a quasi-government agency that's run like an independent business, would fund the other half of the cost.

“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 Holcomb said. “This new investment will not only improve the region’s economic vitality, but also the international competitiveness of our entire state.”

The planned expansion would include a new 2.3-acre cargo terminal for transfers of multimodal containers, 4.4 miles of rail, and two new rail yards that could store 165 rail cars, accommodate a 90-car train and switch trains onto other tracks. Other projects would include the addition of 1,200 feet of usable dock space, a new 6-acre truck marshaling yard, the extension of a retaining wall on the west dock and the repaving of a dock apron.

“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,” Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper said. “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.”

The work is expected to relieve congestion along port roads and increase operating efficiency for post companies, such as the stevedores Federal Marine Terminals and Metro Ports.

“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," Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, said. "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 international deepwater port on Lake Michigan, which is home to many steel and grain companies, is coming off the highest three-year total volume of cargoes such as steel, coal, limestone, fertilizer and grain in its 47-year history, and is on pace for a near-record year so far in 2017. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, said the investment could help boost business even more.

“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,” Young said. “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 in Portage and Burns Harbor, which handles everything from river barges to international ships that pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, managed to secure one of just 10 FASTLANE small project grants for 2017.

“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,” Congressman Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said.