Port Expansion Study

Port Expansion Study


The ECIA Region (Region) includes: Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson Counties in the State of Iowa; and part of Jo Daviess County in the State of Illinois. This Plan will focus on the DMATS region in Dubuque County, Iowa and Jo Daviess County, Illinois.


ECIA hired WSP USA. to conduct a multi-modal transportation options for regional shippers to connect them to the international and domestic transportation system and associated worldwide markets. The Plan will serve as a catalyst for economic development in Iowa, Illinois and the local region.


Project Background

In 2015, public and private stakeholders co-sponsored a study known the Eight County Freight Plan to assess the needs of the Region. Performance measures were established to assess the freight system in terms of safety, efficiency, reliability and connectivity.


Completed in 2018, the Eight County Freight Plan used quantitative and qualitative information to identify freight system needs and issues, and suggest recommended courses of action. Among these recommendations were the need to help area industry lower local shipping costs via improved access to new or improved intermodal and port facilities. Similarly, that plan recommended increased access to transload and consolidation facilities which may or may not be possible at ports in the Region.


One recommendation of this Plan will be to consider the impacts of other regional transportation initiatives such as the logistic park in Cedar Rapids or Muscatine container on barge project.


Project Need

The Eight County Freight Study determined that the Region depends on distant freight facilities and over the road truck for its supply of shipping containers, consumer products and other freight. These facilitates are located in cities such as Minneapolis, Memphis, New Orleans, Rockford, Rochelle, and Greater Chicago. As a result, the Region has longer truck hauls when compared to the US average which drive up freight costs for area industry. 


The Plan aims to lower overall transportation system costs by providing improved modal connectivity points between road, rail and river for local businesses. Specifically, the Eight County Freight Plan found that the waterway system is an undersized resource for our Region. While the Region is bisected by the Mississippi River, the Eight County Freight Study found that local businesses use the waterway for shipping less than peer regions across this US. This could be due to historic river use dominated by coal and other bulk commodities shipping that have waned in recent years, or a lack of handling capacities (equipment and services) at local port facilities that do not align with local production and shipping needs.


Regional stakeholders deemed enhancement to existing barge facilities – most of which also have access to rail - to diversify their cargo handling capabilities as a need for the Region in the Eight County Freight Plan. That plan included a benefit-cost analysis for the port expansions to determine the costs that could be invested to provide improved connectivity for local commodities that could more cost effectively be transported via the inland waterway system or, as a default, rail which exists at most facilities.


Project Objectives

The purpose of the Plan is to provide more multi-modal transportation options for regional shippers to connect them to the international and domestic transportation system and associated worldwide markets. The Plan will serve as a catalyst for economic development in Iowa, Illinois and the local region.


The study will accommodate the following activities listed below.


    • Potential market demand for freight to move via the Mississippi River system from existing port facilities?

    • I. This will consider the potential for:
  1. Diversions to barge or rail from current truck or rail freight;
  2. Potential new markets generated with expanded shipping operations.
  3. It will identify:
  4. Key origin-destination routes,
  5. Upriver volumes and commodities,
  6. Downriver volumes and commodities,
  7. Variability (seasonal factors, weather factors, economic conditions, etc.).

  • II. Primary characteristics required for a successful and sustainable operation v existing capabilities?
    1. Requirements for port infrastructure, incremental or otherwise:
    2. Marine equipment
    3. Vessel navigability
    4. Truck/rail connections
    5. Storage needs for bulk or other products to support volume aggregation
    6. End-to-end service cost
    7. Speed, and reliability compared to truck and rail options
    8. Market volumes
    9. Load/empty balances
    10. Service revenues
    11. Cost recovery
    12. Institutional/organizational factors

  • III. Can port expansions meet the requirements for a successful and sustainable operation?
    1. What is the potential cost of development and implementation?
    2. Consider, at a preliminary order-of-magnitude level
    3. Capital costs for terminal development and marine equipment
    4. Operating and maintenance costs including any ongoing operating costs that would not be covered from operating revenues
    5. Determine whether, and for what period of time, operating subsidies might be warranted

  • IV. Market analysis
    1. Forecast of cargo flows that is expected to utilize the facility
    2. Identify potential shippers
    3. Identify the most eligible shippers that may utilize the facility and outline a strategy of capturing this freight

  • V. Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants
    1. Compile information that can be used to in developing grant application for improvements
    2. Conduct Benefit Cost analysis that can be used in the grant applications.

The final report will provide key expansion needs for port facilities within DMATS area that will be included in the 2050 update of the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (DMATS) Area Long Range Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies for ECIA, in addition to other appropriate regional and local plans. 


Project Documents


ECIA Port Expansion Study Kick Meeting PowerPoint



Freight Study