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Recent developments cement St. Louis region’s position as premier freight gateway

The Greater St. Louis area maintains its prominent role as the Midwest’s top freight center in light of two key developments:

The MacArthur Bridge gets funding boost through federal grant

In February 2019, a $7.17 million Consolidated Railroad Safety and Infrastructure Grant was awarded to the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) to reinforce part of the MacArthur Bridge which runs over South Broadway.

The project entails swapping two overhead trusses with alternative supports which will increase the horizontal clearance from 13.4 feet to 15 feet. The update will allow MacArthur Bridge to accommodate 315,000 railcars.

In addition to lowering industry shipping costs, the project will update the bridge design to meet current industry standards. MacArthur Bridge will also have better schedule reliability for intercity passenger rail service on the Chicago to St. Louis Amtrak corridor as a result.

The TRRA will cover the remainder of the $14.5 million total project cost. The association will award the contract for this project by the end of 2019, with a two-year implementation slated for 2020 to 2022.

The MacArthur Bridge renovation plays a vital role in keeping St. Louis a premier freight gateway and multimodal hub. It is part of the TRRA’s continuing efforts to create a better and more fluid freight traffic system in St. Louis.

Built between 1906 and 1913, MacArthur Bridge is one of two major freight spans across the Mississippi River. The other, the 129-year-old Merchants Bridge, is also currently undergoing a major rehabilitation project. The TRRA moved forward with the $172 million project even after losing out on a federal grant that would have offset approximately one-third of the total cost.

Construction on Merchants Bridge has already begun and is expected to take four years to complete.

Revolutionizing solutions in freight transportation

Not only does the St. Louis region provide the primary routes for freight transportation in the Midwest, it also provides the venue for introducing innovations that will revolutionize the industry.

In the September 2018 St. Louis Regional Freightway Industry Forum, a freight transportation industry leader discussed container-on-vessel (COV) transport innovations for the bi-state region. According to American Patriot Container Transport CEO Sal Litrico, the new COV system will provide substantial savings to shippers by maximizing the inland waterway system through the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The American Patriot vessels for the COV service will be equipped with patented features that let them carry up to 2,500 containers and move at 13 miles per hour. This is a significant improvement from the container-on-barge (COB) vessel transport which takes 20 to 24 days to travel, moving at 4 to 5 miles an hour. The vessels enable round trips from the Plaquemines Port Harbor container terminal to the St. Louis region in only 10 days.

With the use of these patented vessels, shippers are able to save 30% to 40% of costs on truck, rail, and other modes of transport. These vessels can carry a mass number of containerized freight on an all-water route. They can connect ports in the St. Louis region to the rest of the Midwest, the lower Mississippi River, and foreign ports in Asia and Europe.

The American Patriot vessels recently completed model testing in Germany with finishing designs and final engineering already underway.

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