Trump’s infrastructure investment could mean improvements for river commerce


When President Trump visits Cincinnati this week, he’s expected to talk about investing in infrastructure along the Ohio River.

The river carries large amounts of cargo through the region and has aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced.

“We are touched by this river system in many, many ways, every single day,” said Eric Thomas of Benchmark River and Rail Terminals. He is also involved with the Central Ohio River Business Association, an organization that promotes stewardship for the Ohio River.

Thomas said 45 million tons of cargo comes through the ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky every year. The river carries grain produced on farms throughout the region and delivers coal to power plants.

“Most of the gasoline that’s consumed in our region is moving up and down the river system through refineries,” Thomas said.

Keeping cargo rolling on the river means it’s not sitting in a semi on the highway. Thomas said a single barge can carry about 60 tractor-trailer loads of cargo, and each tow might include as many as 15 barges.

Federal infrastructure spending generally involves spending on big projects like roads and bridges.

“Infrastructure is all about commerce, mobility, safety – it’s what drives the economy, drives our ability to get to where we need to go,” said Robert Koehler, deputy executive director of the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

On the river, infrastructure investment could mean investment in locks and dams that handle flood control and keep the river navigable.

“Most of those locks were actually built (during) World War II, so they’re all built with a 50-year life and they’re all exceeding their life, so maintenance cost is tremendous,” Thomas said.