The 32-person Southeast Regional Logistics Council today released a strategic plan for 15 Indiana counties that aims to enhance their long-term infrastructure, develop the logistics industry workforce and create public policy goals to cut down on unnecessary government red tape.
“This is a significant milestone for our region,” said Doug Prather, chair of the Southeast Regional Logistics Council and president of Ranger Enterprises, a warehousing and logistics company in Seymour, Ind. “We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to leverage in this region.”
Prather noted that Southern Indiana already has two first-class railroads, five major interstates, the Port of Indiana in Jeffersonville, and 12 regional airports. Southern Indiana already plays “a significant role” in taking products from the manufacturing floor to store shelves, he said.
The goal of this plan is to improve upon that by decreasing bottlenecks and connecting various modes of transportation to make it easier for logistics companies to move freight.
“They are all very intertwined,” said John Goldman, council member and president of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co.
The Southeast Regional Logistics Council is one of six regional councils in the state creating such plans at the behest of the Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Ports of Indiana.
Among the plan’s top priorities for the Southeast Regional Logistics Council are:
- Adding lanes to Interstates 64 and 65, and U.S. 421 and U.S. 50
- Connecting Madison, Ind., to Interstate 65
- Creating a truck transportation corridor from Aurora, Ind., to east of Lawrenceburg, Ind.
- Reconfiguring the interchange at State Road 46 and State Road 11 near Columbus, Ind., as well as building some kind of railroad separation, such as a bridge over the road
- Building a railroad separation at U.S. 50 and Tipton Street in Seymour, Ind.
Although workers already are turning Interstate 65 into a six-lane highway through Indiana, council members said they’d like to see that eventually go up to eight lanes total, with four lanes for trucks and four for cars. The move would improve safety and flow of traffic.
Council member and businessman Kerry Stemler said it costs about $95 an hour to operate freight trucks. An idle truck costs money.
“Making commerce move across this area is very important,” said Stemler, CEO of general contracting company KM Stemler Co.
Projects specific to Clark County include building a new control tower at the Clark Regional Airport, an estimated $4.5 million cost; connecting River Ridge Commerce Center to the airport (no estimated cost); and adding two lanes to State Road 62 from Charlestown past River Ridge to Interstate 265, an estimated $67 million.
All of Floyd County’s projects are also regional projects, such as making $60.8 million in improvements to State Road 111; redesigning the Sherman Minton Bridge; making Interstate 64 a six-lane interstate in Indiana, an estimated cost of $160.5 million; and making $339 million in improvements to U.S. 150.
In addition to actual infrastructure, the region needs to focus on attracting new people to the logistics industry. There currently is a shortage of truck drivers, air cargo pilots and boat captains, as well as a need to improve workers’ skills.
The plan suggests creating an online program to “up-skill” Indiana logistics workers but does not provide a specific plan for how to attract people to the industry.
Now that the plan is in place, council members and logistical services company Conexus Indiana, which led the plan development, will reach out to county officials and business leaders to get buy-in for the plan. That will help when various projects within the plan go before the state legislature for funding next year.
The biggest public policy goal is to convince state elected officials to dedicate money to specific accounts such as an air transportation or railroad transportation fund rather than keeping it in the general fund. That way the money becomes more difficult to use for other purposes.
Items within the plan were ranked based on importance, and some might not see movement for a couple decades, said David Holt, Conexus Indiana’s vice president of operations and business development, noting that it is a 30-year plan for the region.
No total number was given for how much the entire plan will cost. It contains some projects that are in essence duplicates, which council members hope will increase the likelihood it is funded.
Holt gave the example from the Southwest Regional Logistics Council. The city of Jasper, Ind., would like to have a connection to an interstate. So the council developed two projects in its plan — one connects Jasper to Interstate 69, while another connects it to Interstate 64.
“They don’t need both,” Holt said. “They just need one.”
The newly presented plan also will help Southern Indiana in its collaborative talks with Louisville leaders. As Louisville looks at its infrastructure plans, Southern Indiana can bring forth its own ideas and try to marry the two, said Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, the region’s chamber of commerce.
“Now we have something to take to the table,” she said.