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Eight-hundred and seventy semi-trucks make for a lot of traffic. It's hard to imagine that many semis in one place, or the logistics it would take to successfully load and dispatch them all, but that's how many it takes to replace one 15-barge tow boat.

Shipping on the Missouri River once thrived. Even though the Missouri doesn't have a system of locks and dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keeps the 300-foot wide navigation channel open for shipping up and down the river. However, in the late 1990s, shipping on the river began to disappear. A combination of factors, including drought and recession, caused shippers to turn to the railroad and semi-trucks for shipping. The public ports along the Missouri River began to disappear.

Prices eventually stabilized, droughts eased and we have begun the process of reopening public ports along the Missouri. In August of 2015, the Woodswether Terminal in Kansas City reopened, connecting rail, highway and river shipping on the Missouri River for the first time since 2007. Today, we have three operating ports along the Missouri River, compared to the 12 ports open along the Mississippi.

There are numerous advantages to river shipping. As I said, a 15-tow barge can replace 870 semi-trucks or two 100-car trains. Just the advantage in reduced traffic along our highways and rail systems is huge, but it also results in less consumption of fuel and a cleaner environment. In addition, the economic advantages of a local port are undeniable. Grain and commodity prices are higher when a port is nearby, due to the lower costs of shipping and ease of getting goods to market.

In 2018, the Heartland Port Authority was created with the goal of establishing a port here in Jefferson City. A $183,700 grant was awarded by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority to support the development of the port, and local groups have been working hard to see the project become a reality.

On July 14, House Bill 1330 was signed into law. The bill, which I sponsored in the Senate, approves the transfer of 116 acres of land for use by the Heartland Port Authority to establish a port here in Jefferson City. The port will be located between the Ike Skelton Training Facility and the Algoa Correctional Facility. This location will allow for a multimodal port, connecting highway, rail and river facilities into one centralized transportation hub.

The benefits to this area will be great. As I've said, it will mean lower shipping costs and more revenue for our local farmers and producers. We'll have less impact on the environment to accomplish the same tasks. The port is estimated to create up to 5,740 new jobs.

I'm proud to be part of what I believe will be an exciting and important new opportunity for the people of this area. Thank you to everyone that is working to make this port a reality.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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