By MELISSA CROCKETT MESKE
With plans first penned in the 1990s and a design phase that began in the 2000s, completed construction of the new South Harbor at America’s Central Port in 2015 was met with high levels of both anticipation and reward. The new harbor, with initial construction beginning in 2011 and full operations underway this month, offers cost-effective efficiency to its partners along with a strong presence among its competition.
But its most significant impact may be realized in increased opportunity. According to Dennis Wilmsmeyer, the port’s executive director, the development of the South Harbor has not only brought more options to manufacturers who need to move freight. It has also opened up new employment opportunities for job seekers, other employers, and related services.
“During construction, there were many opportunities for job seekers involving a very diverse demand for skills. Now that the South Harbor is open for business, employment opportunities continue as we and our partners experience increased growth and efficiency,” Wilmsmeyer said.
Construction of the South Harbor involved moving more than a million cubic yards of dirt, installing 9,600 feet of rail track, and pouring more than 8,000 cubic yards of concrete. From this, a new terminal servicing rail, truck, barge and general cargo has been put into service. The new $50 million facility has been a great boost for Madison, Ill., as well as for the St. Louis region, and SCF Lewis and Clark Marine remains a strong partner.
The South Harbor facility provides increased handling capabilities to operators in the Port for moving and distributing freight via the waterway system. Industrial and agricultural shippers alike will be able to take advantage of the facility’s efficiency, made possible most visibly by the high-capacity conveyor system now in place that loads commodities brought in by truck and rail directly into the bellies of the barges that will then move them along the river.
With a location south of Locks 27 in Granite City along the Mississippi River, the inconvenience experienced previously by barge operators having to move cargo through the locks has been removed by transporting commodities through the South Harbor instead. This has furthered opportunities for growth and for increased efficiency to manufacturers.
The advantages that set America’s Central Port apart from its competition overall include a convergence of major railroads and interstates along with immediate access to major regional and international airports and rivers that don’t freeze. Being located at the heart of the nation, manufacturers also benefit from the port’s centralized position to access distribution points throughout the country. The port services the St. Louis region extending its reach up to Grafton.