By ALAN J. ORTBALS
America’s Central Port has been busily working on expansions, additions and improvements over the last year, including the erection of a new 126,000-square-foot distribution facility that is now fully leased.
A 25,000-square-foot distribution building has also been leased. And, 4.5 new miles of new rail track was finished late last year. All of that is part of the continuing development of the new Madison (formerly, South) Harbor.
One of the buildings is leased to River’s Edge Terminals, a trans-loading operation that brings in commodities by rail and exits by truck. Dennis Wilmsmeyer, the port’s executive director, said the district’s board is considering extending additional rail track to other undeveloped areas of the port’s grounds to help attract new tenants. The focus, he said, would be primarily on manufacturers that can take advantage of all the modes of transportation supplied by the port.
“We have a unique opportunity in the St. Louis region to continue to develop a world-class multimodal transportation facility,” said Dennis Wilmsmeyer, the port’s executive director. “If you look around at the different industrial parks and distribution centers, they do a fantastic job but it’s usually just one mode of transportation. We have barge, rail and truck here, giving those companies that need multiple modes of transportation — primarily manufacturers — an opportunity to locate here and take advantage of that to lower their overall transportation costs.”
Construction of the Madison Harbor just south of Lock 27 was a $50 million project. Some 9,600 feet of rail track was built, more than one million cubic yards of dirt was moved and more than 8,000 cubic yards of concrete was poured to create the new rail/truck/barge terminal and general cargo barge dock. The location of the harbor allows for full operation of its facilities all year during all water levels. Rail service includes Class I rail carriers that can be accessed via the new rail loop with 24/7 switching service provided by Port Harbor Railroad.
Wilmsmeyer said the Madison Harbor project was done with an eye toward the changes in global transportation including the expansion of the Panama Canal that was completed last year. With the Madison Harbor, America’s Central Port is now well situated to handle the growth in container-on-barge business that is expected as a result of the canal expansion, he said.
Earlier this year representatives of the St. Louis Regional Freightway District, including Wilmsmeyer, traveled to New Orleans to sign a marketing agreement with its port district.
“The creation of the St. Louis Regional Freightway District was one of the smartest moves the region has made in many years,” Wilmsmeyer said. “Bringing together under one umbrella all the regional freight services and marketing it, showing to the rest of the country and the world that St. Louis is the true transportation capital of the United States.”
Wilmsmeyer said that the port encompasses 1,200 acres and they made a strategic move a couple years ago to get the district’s enabling legislation changed to expand its boundaries far to the north. He said that he is hopeful that in the coming years the port will be able to start attracting industry, manufacturing and distribution companies to some of the other communities that it serves.
“We continue to strive to find the next company out there that needs the services we provide, that needs a great transportation opportunity. A company that wants to grow and potentially needs a new facility,” he said. “We are targeting those manufacturers out there that may be working today in very old or outdated facilities that are inefficient. Is there a way to get them to come look at what we have to offer? We can greatly lower a company’s costs in terms of the build-out of rail or roadway because a lot of that infrastructure is already right here.”