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What A 'Marine Highway' Designation For The Ohio River Means For Your Commute

Local business owners and OKI authorities receive the Marine Highway designation from the federal Maritime Administration.
Tana Weingartner
Local business owners and OKI authorities receive the Marine Highway designation from the federal Maritime Administration.

A portion of the Ohio River including the ports of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and down river to Paducah is being designated as a Marine Highway by the Federal Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.

That means governments, companies and ports - basically anyone involved in moving goods on the river - can apply for federal dollars to pay for projects that would make that process better.

"This designation means if we have good projects, we can get funding from the federal government to move goods up and down the river and get goods off our highways," says Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

Grants could be used "to improve port facilities, the ability to move goods on and off cargo ships and barges," Policinski explains. "If it makes it more efficient to move goods that means it's less expensive to move those goods on the river and makes it more competitive to moving goods on a highway."

The more cargo that is moved onto the river, the fewer trucks you'll see on area highways.

Coal remains the top commodity transported on the river, but other materials and even finished goods are areas where local companies could expand their river shipping operations, according to OKI Strategic Initiatives Manager Robyn Bancroft.

"We're looking at how do we move finished goods or parts and some of those containerized goods on the river versus everything going onto trucks. We do have capacity issues as everyone sees every day on the highway network."

This region becomes the 35th to be labeled as a Marine Highway, and just the second in Ohio.

Chances of getting funding are good, the Maritime Administration says it's funded 65 percent of requests so far.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.