March 24--Missouri has a freight problem, and it's too much for the system to carry.
In this case, however, adding a few pounds -- or tons -- is a good thing. In 2012, Missouri exported $13.9 billion in freight. Transportation analysts believe the state's freight movement will double by 2040. Located in the heart of the country and crisscrossed by major highways, Missouri is bound to see lots of truck traffic in the future.
Warehousing and logistics businesses in our region have grown and added jobs; others have grown as they access transportation. IBC North America and Clean Tide Container in Chillicothe, Mo., as well as Triumph Foods and FedEx in St. Joseph, are all examples of expanding businesses that rely on shipping.
Clearly, managing freight transport is essential to the region's continued growth. And the more freight, the bigger our problem of moving loads efficiently. Wider, stronger highways, however, are not the only solution.
Waterways and railroads are answers to meeting growing demand and can facilitate more business development in the state. The public is catching on. In a Missouri Department of Transportation survey, Northwest Missouri residents identified farm-to-market routes and river port efficiency as top concerns.
A decision by the Maritime Administration to designate the Missouri River as a maritime highway opens up greater opportunities for barge traffic. The designation improves access to the river and could mean more material shipped by barge -- an efficient method of transporting grain and heavy materials.
MoDOT currently is developing a statewide freight plan, with the draft expected to be complete in June. Input from the public gathered last year indicates taxpayers want to promote jobs and economic development.
A comprehensive plan that makes use of all the resources available will enable the state system to grow and successfully put on a little more freight.
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