Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ohio funds could create true 'Port of Cincinnati'

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (Port) on Tuesday applied for a $5 million forgivable loan through Ohio's Logistics and Distribution Program, which could help boost the City's freight capacity by finally tying its vast rail network to the riverfront.

The funding would be used for what's being called the "Port of Cincinnati", tying existing rail to the Ohio River through the Cincinnati Bulk Terminals (CBT) property, a in Queensgate.

Currently, barge cargo unloaded on the CBT site must be trucked across Mehring Way to be loaded onto rail. A short-line freight railroad doesn't serve the riverfront, making the method uncompetitive.

"One of the big challenges for shipping in our area is that bulk shipping, when it comes in, has to be trucked out," says Kim Satzger, president of the Port.

The loan would help the Port and CBT upgrade the CSX tracks at the western end of the site, build a temporary at-grade crossing at Mehring Way, and expand the port's material handling areas and conveyor system.

CBT has pledged $1.6 million in matching funds.

The State Controlling Board could decide on the application as soon as June or July. The project could take 12-15 months to complete.

'Tsunami of freight'

Satzger says that the Mill Creek valley is a nationally-known bottleneck, with over 600,000 rail cars traveling through per year.

"As CSX and others plan rail loads, they're actually going around Cincinnati," Satzger says. "They're going through Indiana instead."

Additionally, the --> --> --> has estimated that the number of trucks per day per mile on Ohio's highways, currently estimated at 10,500, is expected to double by 2035.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments has dubbed the phenomenon "The Tsunami of Freight".

"The community that has multiple modes will mean freight costs become lower," Satzger says. "Those places will have a competitive advantage."

Cincinnati, and the Ohio River, have been nominated for participation in the federal Marine Highway Program based on the City's unique position along the inland waterway system.

Additional federal funding to improve the port could become available next year.

"We will need to be very strategic in how we respond locally and nationally to the freight demand," Satzger says. "It's a good time for us to think about what niche we fill in the national model."

Increased value

Still to be resolved is a request by the Port to have the leases between the City and CBT transferred to the Port, which could result in the loss of $350,000 in City revenue annually.

But Satzger says that, in addition to increased business for Cincinnati, benefits of the proposal include low emissions, higher throughput, lower ton miles, and the safer movement of hazardous materials through the region.

"A lot of us who drive by it every day don't recognize the value of what it means to our region," she says.

Previous reading on BC:
Lease extension allows Vertus to bring clean coal to Queensgate (6/24/08)
Cincinnati Bulk Terminals lease could extend to 2036, bring clean coal (5/28/08)


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