CREVE COEUR, Ill. (WMBD) – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) visited Peoria Lock and Dam to highlight a major project that will transform the upper Mississippi River.
$829 million dollars from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act is on its way to modernize locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River as part of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), a long-term program of navigation improvements and ecological restoration for the Upper Mississippi River.
“The monumental infrastructure package passed under the Biden administration is what is making this happen,” said Bustos. “You have to go back to the Eisenhower administration to see this kind of investment. That was when we first developed the interstate highway system.”
Bustos said the locks and dams were built for steamboats, not modern 1,200-foot barges that span four football field lengths.
“Depression-era development built for the steamboats now has to make these adjustments,” she said.
Durbin said the Mississippi River is the region’s “competitive advantage.” The river’s locks and dams were built in the 1930s and haven’t been upgraded in decades.
“These are the equivalent of interstate highways, and these highways on the river haven’t been touched for years,” he said. “Improving the capacity and efficiency of our locks will ensure inland navigation remains the lowest cost, the lowest carbon-producing transportation method for commodities. This is going to prevent increased transportation costs for American consumers and protect the critical supply chain.”
Durbin said the modernization is a “game-changer for farmers”, who transport more than 60% of the world’s corn through the river.
“It will allow Illinois agriculture to compete around the world. Basically doubling, or cutting in half I should say, the throughput time for these barges to move down the river to the markets they’re needed. And in the process we are going to create thousands of jobs,” he said.
Most of the money is going to fund Lock and Dam 25, north of St. Louis.
Durbin said Lock and Dam 25 transports 28.2 million tons of cargo annually, supports 541,000 jobs in the region and carries products to 17 states.