Marine Highway Designation Yields First Results

June 15, 2020: Cincinnati Public Radio (full link below)

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration is awarding the first grants to this region since the ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky earned a Marine Highway designation.

Steel company Nucor is getting nearly $3 million to help build a shipping terminal along the Ohio River west of Louisville. The funds account for just under 20% of the project, according to Robyn Bancroft, strategic initiatives manager with the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).

A portion of the Ohio River running from east of Cincinnati to Paducah, Ky., was declared a federal marine highway in February. That means governments, companies and ports - basically anyone involved in moving goods on the river - can apply for federal dollars to pay for projects that would make that process better.

More cargo being transported on the river means fewer trucks on area highways.

Nucor's new Brandenburg facility will move steel plates for short hauls by river rather than roads.

"This is actually a new concept, that's why we were awarded," says OKI's Bancroft. "Normally barges travel much further distances on the river, but these short hauls will enable us to save all of those trucks from being on the highways."

While the project isn't being built locally, it is modeled on Nucor's local Gallatin facility near Markland Dam. Bancroft is also encouraged this first success will lead to more.

"Our hope is, based on this experience with this first grant award, that next year with the 2021 notice of funding availability we'll actually have an improvement and an award here in the OKI region. We're already working with our barge operators toward that goal."

The Maritime Administration awarded $9.5 million in grants to eight projects across the country.