This article from MarEx is about 6 months old, and unfortunately they quote NPR, but I still find this very interesting. Anyone have any personal thoughts, or better yet, experiences, with this? If the uptick is as significant as this article would lead us to believe then this would really be a landmark turn-around for one little corner of the industry that I don’t think anyone would have guessed would ever bounce back. As much as I hate the state of New York, I say bully for the Erie Canal! Good for them.
[I]The Herbert P. Brake pushes a large barge through Fairport, New York on the Erie Canal
The Historic Erie Canal, which stretches 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo, has been receiving an upsurge in barge traffic in recent years after decades of being used primarily by recreational boats. According to a report broadcast recently on National Public Radio (NPR), the revival in commercial traffic is in large part due to sales of Canadian grain, as well as to the low cost of fuel implicit in use of the canal compared to other transportation modes. The report was prepared by journalist Ryan Delaney.
The canal officially opened in 1825 with some of New York’s largest cities growing up along it. Freight passing through the 500 miles of waterways and locks peaked at five million tons. But the level dropped significantly when the interstate highway system and competing St. Lawrence Seaway to the north opened up. Commercial shipping slowed to just 10,000 tons a year, and recreational boats became the dominant users of the canal, as is still the case today. In 2012, however, the canal saw a four-fold increase in average freight transit. Projections for 2013 are for more than 100,000 tons to be shipped through the waterway.
According to an article in The New York Times, the growth in commercial traffic is due to the rising cost of diesel fuel. Using one gallon of fuel, canal barges can carry a short ton of cargo 514 miles; a train can haul it 202 miles, less than half the distance; and a truck only 59 miles. Canal barges can carry loads of up to 3,000 short tons. They can also transport objects that would be too large for road or rail shipment. Erie Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton told NPR that as more crops arrive from Canada because of changes in trade law, the canal just happens to be in the right place again. “This system is still here. So it’s an opportunity really to go back to what made this state great, and to use a tremendous infrastructure that 189 years later is still going strong,” he said.