Moving Grain: Lock Delays on Ohio, Illinois Rivers Expected For Early July

    Barge traffic at a grain elevator on the Mississippi River. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    STB Updates Regulations on the Publication of Agricultural and Fertilizer Tariffs

    On June 30, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) adopted final rules amending regulations on the publication of rate and service terms for agricultural products and fertilizer. For those commodities, railroads are required by law to “publish, make available, and retain for public inspection its currently effective rates, schedules of rates, charges, and other service terms, and any scheduled changes to such rates, charges, and service terms.”

    Based on comments provided separately by shipper associations, railroads, and USDA, STB has modernized their regulations to require Class I carriers to make this information readily available to anyone online, without overly burdensome registration processes.

    Anyone unable to access the required information should contact STB’s Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance.

    Lock Delays on Ohio and Illinois Rivers Expected For Early July

    As July begins, falling river levels throughout the Midwest will cause navigation delays as river operations adjust to the lower water levels at Ohio River Locks and Dam (L&D) 52 and to on-going repairs at La Grange L&D on the Illinois River.

    Due to structural conditions at L&D 52, the process of raising the dam there may halt navigation for up to 72 hours as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ workers complete the dam raising procedure and allow the pool to stabilize for safe navigation.

    Dam raising at La Grange can be completed in a much shorter time, however, traffic will be forced to transit the site through the single lock chamber that is under repair. Until La Grange Lock repair work is completed in mid-September, the lock will be closed 10 hours each day and opened to traffic for 14 hours each day.

    In addition, tows will be restricted to transiting the lock with sets of two barges side-by-side (70 feet) instead of the standard three barges side-by-side (105 feet).

    USDOT Announces Grant Program for Nation’s Roads and Bridges

    On June 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program, which will make approximately $1.5 billion available to projects to address critical issues facing our nation’s roads and bridges.

    INFRA advances a pre-existing grant program established in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 and utilizes updated criteria to evaluate projects to align them with national and regional economic vitality goals and to leverage additional non-federal funding.

    The INFRA grant program preserves the statutory requirement in the FAST Act to award at least 25 percent of funding for rural projects. INFRA gives rural communities in need of funding for highway and multimodal freight projects with national or regional economic significance an opportunity to apply directly for financial assistance from the Federal government.

    The INFRA Notice of Funding Opportunity can be found here.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending June 22, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 21.7 mmt, down 15 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .492 mmt, down 9 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .316 mmt, down 40 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were .312 mmt, up 181 percent from the past week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,954 grain carloads for the week ending June 24, up 1 percent from the previous week, down 1 percent from last year, and up 12 percent from the 3-year average. Average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $231 below tariff for the week ending June 29, down $75 from last week, and $313 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending July 1, barge grain movements totaled 945,400 tons, 18 percent higher than the last week, and up 23 percent from the same period last year.

    For the week ending July 1, 612 grain barges moved down river, up 20 percent from last week, 681 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 42 percent from the previous week.


    For the week ending June 29, 33 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 3 percent more than the same period last year. Fifty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 10 percent less than the same period last year.

    For the week ending June 29, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $37.75 per metric ton, 1 percent more than the previous week. The cost of shipping from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $19.00 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week.


    During the week ending July 3, average diesel fuel prices increased 1 cent from the previous week to $2.47 per gallon, 5 cents higher than the same week last year.

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