Back to Business: BL Duke River Terminal Prepares for Illinois Waterway Reopening

October 23, 2020: MarketsInsider (full link below)

BL Duke River Terminal, a division of BL Duke, is planning to resume normally scheduled business as repairs to the Illinois Waterway near completion. Northbound traffic from Port of NOLA to destinations above La Grange Lock resumed in early October, and southbound traffic from Chicago to destinations south of La Grange Lock is expected to resume the first week of November.

In anticipation for the re-opening, BL Duke River Terminal, a barge and rail terminal founded in 2018 that offers transloading, stevedoring, and warehouse services, has been coordinating projects with existing and new clients as well as improving infrastructure, including upgrading climate control in their 250,000 sq. ft. warehouse, improving their customer portal, and performing needed maintenance on critical equipment.

"We're looking forward to picking up where we left off with existing customers, growing existing business, and welcoming new customers. We don't anticipate the market going back to pre-pandemic/pre-closure levels, but we're looking forward to adjusting to a 'new normal,'" said VP of Business Development Bri Binnie.

In addition to market demand pressures and COVID-19 impact, the scheduled closures to these locks have significantly affected recyclers and terminal services companies, as recently documented in Scrap magazine. Because the Midwest is a hub for US manufacturing, barges are relied upon for cost effective, efficient flow of goods. One 15-barge tow can transport the equivalent of 216 railcars or 1050 truckloads—and for a fraction of the freight expense.

Although the work occurred from July through October, the flow of goods stopped at the beginning of June in order to get vessels off that portion of the river and goods will not actually arrive into the Chicagoland area until mid-to-late November. However, while there's short-term impact, the repairs come with long-term benefits that will improve the future flow of business.

"It's exciting that the Army Corps is rebuilding the lock and dam system on the Illinois River. Updated infrastructure and technology will make barge freight more efficient and reliable by decreasing lock-through times and closures. These improvements are long overdue," said BL Duke President Lou Plucinski.

The reopening signals a new chapter in the business. Parent company BL Duke is celebrating a big milestone this month—its 20th anniversary.

"We've seen cycles like this before. But we're resilient. Our innovative, forward-thinking team has worked hard to welcome back customers and bring new ones into the fold," said Plucinski of this new chapter.

BL Duke River Terminal is the trusted partner for transloading and warehousing services in the Chicago area with convenient access to the inland waterways and abroad, class I rail, and major highways. We go the extra mile—and the final mile–for our customers with flexible programs and state-of-the-art portal that puts real time information at your fingertips. For inquiries, please reach out to Bri Binnie at