While the economic impact of the locks on Indiana is impressive,Indiana cargo made up only 27.8% of the total shipments through theO¶Brien lock in 2008. Thus the impacts of lock closure to the broaderregional economy could be much greater than the $1.9 billion dollarsidentified through this study.
What¶s more, Northwest Indiana is home to the largest steel-producingregion in the U.S. and the Chicago-area locks are vital to theseoperations. Thus the economic impacts of closure could potentially befelt throughout the US manufacturing sector.
It¶s also important to note that the Ports study was based on 2008data. As a result of the economic climate, the Ports handledsignificantly less freight than usual ± meaning the true economic andemployment impacts of the locks are likely higher than those cited.
In 2008, the Port handled 32 million tons of cargo, less than theprevious 4-year average of 34.2 million tons.
Similarly, the 1.9 million tons of barge activity handled by thePorts were less than the average of 3.0 million tons over thesame 2004-2007 period.
Barge shipments offer significant public benefits versus alternativemodes of transportation, including reduced shipping costs, fuelconsumption, ozone emissions, highway congestion andtransportation-related accidents.
The benefits of waterway transportation are not limited to thecompanies that ship directly by barge through the locks. As evidencedby the Ports study, other companies would suffer if the locks wereclosed. The slightest change in the logistics chain and costs candetermine whether Midwest products are shipped around the world ordown the road.
To completely shut down one mode of transportation would havea catastrophic affect on many types of businesses by cutting