Leaders along Mississippi River call for more barge shipping to ease truck traffic

SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Some leaders along the Mississippi River, through the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, are pushing for a change in shipping practices.

They say the change will lessen the amount of truck traffic.

The Department of Transportation agrees that using barges to carry containers of goods instead of semi-trucks would help ease congestion, especially along major interstates.

"Our cities suffer from considerable surface transportation congestion which is taking its toll on the infrastructure. That's why we must start using our inland waterway system better. DOT's support is a significant step forward for starting a container-on-vessel program on the Mississippi River," said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a founding MRCTI member.

However, the Executive Director of the SEMO Port said the move has its ups and downs.

Dan Overbey said while it could relieve some truck traffic, barges are a much slower mode of transportation. They take up to 15 days to travel from St. Louis to New Orleans versus the 11 hours a truck takes.

Plus, the cost is actually more to go by river.

"It's very hard to compete with highway trucks. In fact, we looked at traffic that might have gone by container down to the gulf coast and it actually turned out to be cheaper to go by truck than to set up a system to bring in containers, store them, load them on a barge then unload them at the other end," Overbey said.

Overbey says the port in Scott County has the ability to handle containers being shipped by barge and they've done so in the past. However, many of their customers aren't willing to pay the extra cost to ship by river.

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