Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor to land $9.85 million for multimodal infrastructure

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor opened the 2014 international shipping season with the arrival of the Isolda and the Federal Nakagawa in April. The port is in line to receive a large federal grant for more multimodal infrastructure.

John Luke, The Times file photo

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is in line to receive a $9.85 million federal grant that would help bulk up its infrastructure to handle multimodal containers that can be loaded onto ships, barges, trucks or trains.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is recommending partial federal funding for a $19.7 million expansion that also will boost the port's cargo handling capacity. The Indianapolis-based Ports of Indiana, a quasi-government agency that's run like an independent business, would fund the other half of the cost.

"Indiana has one of the premier inland ports systems in North America. This project will increase our state's ability to attract and grow multimodal business in Northwest Indiana," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. "Our Lake Michigan port provides critical access to ocean vessels, Great Lakes ships and river barges that connect Indiana companies to the world. Further investment into this port will only strengthen the tremendous economic impact it generates for our state each year."

The planned expansion would include a new 2.3-acre cargo terminal for transfers of multimodal containers, 4.4 miles of rail, and two new rail yards that could store 165 rail cars, accommodate a 90-car train and switch trains onto other tracks. Other projects would include the addition of 1,200 feet of usable dock space, a new 6-acre truck marshaling yard, the extension of a retaining wall on the west dock and the repaving of a dock apron.

"These investments in Northwest Indiana will allow the Port of Indiana to increase its multimodal freight-handling capabilities to help meet anticipated future demand," Ports of Indiana Chief Executive Officer Rich Cooper said. "Our port companies and stevedores will benefit tremendously with this significant new infrastructure investment that will enhance productivity and efficiency for those who rely on the port's water, rail and highway connections. Our Portage port is regarded as one of the premier ports on all of the Great Lakes because of our continued reinvestments into the facility. This grant will permit us to further accelerate our investments to help attract new companies and new cargoes to the region."

The funding — one of 10 FASTLANE small project grants for 2017 — is not guaranteed. Congress could vote to block the port expansion or any other similarly funded project within the next 60 days.

“Indiana’s ports are economic drivers for our state that help create jobs and support our state’s manufacturing," said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. "I was proud to support the Ports of Indiana’s application because this grant will help Burns Harbor increase its capacity and efficiency, expanding economic opportunities for Indiana.”

The project has bipartisan support from both of Indiana's senators.

“Infrastructure means jobs. Indiana is investing where it matters to attract business and help existing businesses grow and hire more," said U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. "The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor FASTLANE grant will help strengthen the Hoosier economy and, in the Senate, I will continue to support efforts to enhance infrastructure vital to our state and nation.”

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.