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Transportation Infrastructure Maintenance & Improvement

Fighting for Infrastructure Updates

A substantial infrastructure of roads, bridges, railways and waterways transports soybeans from farms to customers. Illinois is uniquely situated with prime access to navigable waterways, major rail lines and vast interstate highways, creating advantages to move soybeans around the world efficiently and economically. Unfortunately, an aging transportation infrastructure is eroding those advantages, causing travel restrictions and delays, and costing soybean producers money.


The current inadequacies of the Illinois transportation system are resulting in as much as $1 per bushel additional expense for soybean farmers, depending on how far soybeans are traveling, and in what form. For example, when the Beardstown Bridge on highway 67 in Cass County was posted in fall 2014, the resulting truck detour meant traveling an additional 72 to 144 miles out of route.

Crumbling roads, railroads, waterways and underutilized intermodal containers make Illinois soybeans less competitive in domestic and international markets, damage efficiency and productivity, and foreshadow future cost increases for Illinois farmers. Nearly half of soybeans grown in Illinois are exported, so the reliability and efficiency of logistics and transportation networks is crucial. Research studies confirm just how much soybean farmers stand to lose if solutions aren’t found. Informa Economics, Inc., conducted research on behalf of the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA). Highlights include:


Roads. Increasing current road weight limits from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds would decrease by 20 percent the need for drivers moving agricultural products and could save $84 million industry-wide per year. Allowing heavier trucks also would save $3 to $5 million in transportation and facility operating costs. Learn more here.


Bridges. Many Illinois bridges are unfit to support modern farm equipment such as grain trucks. Researchers studied 12 Illinois bridges and estimated an average return of $10.24 to the local economy for every dollar invested in repairs.


Waterways. More than 1,100 miles of navigable waterways border or pass through Illinois. However, the Illinois Waterways’ system of locks and dams is outdated and in dire need of repair. Waterway infrastructure recently received a failing grade from America’s Waterway Initiative. Deferred critical maintenance to locks and dams is backlogged by approximately $560 million. Clearing the projects will lead to savings totaling $1.2 billion. What’s more, should a waterway close for emergency maintenance, existing roads and rails can’t handle the increased volume. According to this research, if the LaGrange Lock located near Versailles, Ill., on the Illinois River, closed for 90 days during peak soybean harvest movement, 341 barge loads would need to be diverted to other modes – a volume equivalent to 21,000 truck loads or 5,200 rail carloads.


Railways. More than 7,000 miles of rail cross the state of Illinois and all 8 Class-I railroads operate here. Rail plays an important role for commodity movement: the six state soy processing facilities annually receive half of all soybeans by rail. A checkoff-funded study by the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) found U.S. soybean exports are increasingly dependent on rail. The study suggests that between 2012 and 2035, a $1.55 billion annual funding gap between expected rail investments and need due to increased volume will exist. It is estimated using USDA AMS data and research reports that annually, there are around 35 million bushels moved by domestic rail and 74 million bushels exported by rail, for an average of 109 million bushels originating from Illinois by rail annually.


Transportation Update June 6, 2018


The House passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorizing $3.5 billion of Army Corps of Engineers projects and programs. The Senate is expected to consider its version, called America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S115), this summer.


Transportation Update January 2018


Following passage of the tax reform legislation in December, President Trump hopes to find similar success with infrastructure legislation. However, budgetary and immigration issues will come first. The White House has indicated it hopes a bill on infrastructure will pass before November mid-term elections.


Transportation Update September 14, 2017


The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3353, a bill that cuts federal appropriations for transportation programs like Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and transit Capital Investment Grant (CIG). The bill would provide $17.8 billion for the Transportation Department, a nearly 8 percent decrease from current spending levels. It has not been reviewed by the Senate yet.


Transportation Update June 7, 2017


President Donald Trump announced more details at an “Infrastructure Week” rally in Cincinnati about his $1 trillion plan for modernizing the nation’s aging system of levees, dams and locks – which includes a $200 billion direct federal investment. Illinois Soybean Growers is committed to working together with industry, government, academia and other transportation stakeholders to develop innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges.


Transportation Update December 13, 2016


President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law. The WIIN legislation encompasses the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, authorizing Army Corps of Engineers water resources and infrastructure operations and programs including locks, dams and dredging. These programs are crucial for allowing soybean farmers to transport their crop and remain competitive in the global market.


ISG applauds Congress for the passage of the WRDA authorization and hopes there will be continued investment in waterway infrastructure initiatives in 2017.


Transportation Update December 16, 2015


In the FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, the Energy & Water section provides significant increases for maintenance and operations of waterways and ports.


Specifically, the bill:


  • Increases funding for the construction, operation and maintenance of projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
  • Provides $1.25 billion for eligible activities funded by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which fulfills the agreement enacted in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed in 2014.


Transportation Update December 4, 2015


President Barack Obama signed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act. The final legislation, titled Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, is a multi-year reauthorization that provides certainty for state and local governments to maintain and move forward with transportation projects, including new flexibilities and a more streamlined environmental review process. The bill also establishes new national freight policies and programs aimed at improving freight movement.


For more information about all modes of transportation: Transportation Resources