Study analyzes Illinois roads, bridges critical to soybean industry’s


March 3, 2014

Contact: Greg Kelahan, P.E., ports and harbors engineer
Hanson Professional Services Inc.
(314) 770-0467

Study analyzes Illinois roads, bridges critical to soybean industry’s global transport

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Hanson Professional Services Inc. recently conducted a study of Illinois’ roads and bridges for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), which is working to raise awareness about how deteriorating transportation infrastructure can inhibit the soybean industry. The study identified critical roadways and bridges that may negatively impact the transport of soybeans and other crops from farms to modal hubs, including ports and terminals.

America’s transportation infrastructure feeds into ports and terminals – the country’s economic nerve centers that connect U.S. goods to international consumers. With an aging system of bridges and roads, repairs could cause detours, which could mean delivery delays and rising fuel expenses for farmers. In Illinois, this may lead to delays on a global scale.

Illinois is one of the top states in the country for the production of soybeans, corn and ethanol. As national and international demand for soybeans grows, Illinois producers increasingly will rely on the state’s transportation infrastructure. In order for the state to stay competitive in the global agricultural market, highway, rail and waterway infrastructure must remain reliable. The ISA previously supported studies that showed the state’s infrastructure across all modes of transportation is minimally maintained or deteriorating, while resources for funding are declining. Analyses indicated that structurally deficient bridges negatively impact the truck transport of soybeans and that investing in these bridges would benefit local economies.

Hanson’s ports and harbors group worked to broaden the identification of critical bridges and roadways that could negatively impact soybean transportation – especially deficient bridges with potential near-term funding shortfall issues for rehabilitation or replacement. To identify critical bridges and roadways, the team conducted geographic information system-based analyses. GIS was used to identify critical roadways and to locate modal hubs – facilities that handle and/or process agricultural products – and areas where agricultural production is high. The Illinois Department of Transportation’s statewide bridge inventory database was used to identify bridges with a pressing need for rehabilitation or replacement on the critical roadways. The team’s analyses were supplemented and refined through interviews with county engineers.

The study identified 13 focus counties in Illinois. The analyses determined that these counties have critical bridges and roadways with current or near-term need for rehabilitation or replacement. Some bridges and roadways are programmed but funding for rehabilitation or replacement has not completely been resolved; other bridges are not programmed and have no funding allocated. Hanson’s study provided the ISA with a foundation to pursue more information regarding the funding issues, advocate for bridges to be programmed and determine other potential avenues of assistance.

“ISA’s board of directors has made transportation a main priority because it’s the first step in connecting farmers to consumers,” said Paul Rasmussen, a soybean farmer from Genoa, Ill., and first vice-chair of ISA’s transportation committee. “We are now taking information gleaned from research to move the needle on repairs.”

Hanson is a national, employee-owned consulting firm providing engineering, planning and allied services. The firm’s corporate headquarters is located at 1525 S. Sixth St., Springfield, IL 62703. The office may be reached by phone: (217) 788-2450 or fax: (217) 788-2503.


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