Moving Grain: DOT Funds Major Upgrades of Supply Chain Infrastructure

    Port of New Orleans - Mississippi River. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    DOT Funds Major Upgrades of Supply Chain Infrastructure at Ports

    The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) recently awarded $241 million in grants for port infrastructure. The grants are expected to nearly double annually for 5 years starting next year (to $450 million).Disbursed through MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, the grants will be allocated immediately to 25 projects in 19 states.

    The allotments include $52.3 million to the Port of Long Beach, CA, which will boost rail capacity with several new features: a new locomotive facility, 10,000-foot support track, and extensions of five existing tracks. The new Long Beach construction will expedite freight movements, while reducing the number of required truck trips.

    Other awards include $18.3 million to Houston, TX, for a 39-acre greenspace at the Bayport Container Terminal; $15.7 million to Tacoma, WA, for construction of an off-dock container support facility; and $14.6 million to Brunswick, GA, to build a fourth berth for cargo ships at Colonel’s Island Terminal.

    USACE Hosts Inland Waterways Industry Day

    On December 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) hosted an Inland Waterways Industry Day to update the status and budget of lock construction and maintenance projects, and to facilitate the conversation between USACE and the barge industry on current issues related to waterways and infrastructure.

    Grain News on AgFax

    During the meeting, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor stressed the economic and environmental benefits of the U.S. inland waterways system. USACE provided updates of ongoing construction projects by its district commanders.

    Also discussed was USACE’s Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) and its role in prioritizing projects and allocating USACE’s budget, particularly so with the $2.5 billion in funding from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. On the day before the meeting, USACE arranged for Secretary Connor and industry representatives to visit Mississippi River Lock 25 (near Winfield, MO) and Lock 26 (near Alton, IL).

    USACE tentatively plans to host three quarterly Inland Waterways meetings (such as Industry Days or User Board Meetings) in 2022 and encourages the industry to continue the open dialogue.

    DOT Publishes 50th edition of National Transportation Statistics Report

    On December 16, DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Volpe National Transportation Systems Center released its 50th anniversary edition of National Transportation Statistics (NTS). First published in 1971, NTS has grown to more than 200 data tables. The wide-ranging data span the U.S. transportation system’s infrastructure for multiple modes, safety record, energy use, environmental impacts, and economic performance.

    One notable finding on economic performance: from 1999 to 2018, inflation-adjusted rates of revenue per ton-mile increased 27 percent for truck, rose 25 percent for Class I railroad, and rose 16 percent for domestic water transportation. Over the past three decades (from 1990 to 2019), the average length of haul has remained relatively constant for inland waterway shipments, but has increased over 40 percent for Class I railroads.

    The commemorative publication includes links to digitized versions of the entire NTS collection, and data are also available online.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending December 16, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2021/22 totaled 45.5 million metric tons (mmt), down 17 percent from the same time last year, and down 2 percent from the previous week.

    Net corn export sales were 0.983 mmt, down 50 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 0.812 mmt, down 38 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.425 mmt, down 35 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,159 grain carloads during the week ending December 18. This was a 3-percent decrease from the previous week, 7 percent fewer than last year, and 3 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $1,729 above tariff for the week ending December 23. This was $726 more than last week and $1,161 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending December 25, barged grain movements totaled 624,640 tons. This was 24 percent fewer than the previous week and 37 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    For the week ending December 25, 390 grain barges moved down river—134 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 856 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans region, 9 percent more than last week.


    For the week ending December 23, 28 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—down 39 percent from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting December 24), 52 vessels were expected to be loaded—9 percent lower than the same period last year.


    For the week ending December 27, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased by 1.1 cents from the previous week to $3.615 per gallon, 98 cents above the same week last year. At $3.479 per gallon, the average Midwest diesel price has declined for 8 consecutive weeks and is at its lowest level since October 4, 2021.

    Full report.

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