The Future of Freight in Greater Peoria

by Ray Lees, Planning Program Manager

Early last year, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission solicited consultants to examine the possibility of a multi-modal riverfront port facility in Pekin, prompted by the city’s initial interest in 2016. The study was funded through the Commission’s Special Transportation Planning Studies Program.

In March 2017, The Tioga Group with Frank Harder as the lead principal was selected to initiate a high-level limited evaluation of regional barge, rail, highway, and air attributes impacting the viability of multi-modal port facilities. Factors identified and evaluated included regional freight suppliers, freight movement, existing or proposed multi-modal transportation network development, and stakeholders committed to developing a long-term sustainable port capability. The initial study was completed in early April 2017 and concluded that there were enough positive factors to warrant a second study. However, it also determined that the existing limited transportation infrastructure and physical assets at the proposed port site in Pekin diminished its feasibility for further consideration.

Illinois River
The Illinois River and Upper Peoria Lake, as seen from Grandview Drive in Peoria

Initiated in late May, the Tioga Group continued with Phase II of the study. The scope of work included more in-depth research with regional stakeholders, face-to-face meetings with port operators and owners, and on-site visits by Harder. He also provided analysis of commercial opportunities particularly related to container-on-barge capabilities and services; sources of potential financial assistance through MARAD’s Marine Highway grants and other Federal Programs; evaluation of private marine terminals in the Tri-County Area; operational analysis focusing on specialized equipment requirements and site preparations with capital improvements; and finally, an assessment of regional institutional collaborations, advocacy, and committed leadership. The Phase II Study concluded that Peoria Barge Terminal has the most attractive attributes to meet increased capabilities in the region.

Due to current but incomplete efforts of the TransPORT Authority to re-engage and appoint new board members to lead this multi-jurisdictional entity, active continued study of multi-modal port opportunities in the region has paused. That said, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission stands ready to explore future opportunities with a host of public and private stakeholders.

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