Waterborne Competitiveness: U.S. and Foreign Investments in Inland Waterways (May 2022). The National Waterways Foundation (NWF) commissioned a study by Eno Center for Transportation that concludes that the ability for the U.S. to maintain a position of strength depends on a regular assessment of infrastructure needs and multimodal development strategies. Aging infrastructure and competition from other countries’ inland waterway networks pose risks to the economic and national security advantage long enjoyed by shippers and the broader U.S. economy.  

The study focuses on the current state of the U.S. inland waterways system and compares it to others from around the world, using case studies of river systems from Europe (Rhine River, Danube River), Asia (Yangtze River, Mekong River), and South America (Amazon River, Paraná-Paraguay Rivers) to compare investment levels, commodity flows, governance, and investment priorities. The case studies also reveal the effects of foreign direct investments on internal and external good movement, including the role of investment in other uses such as damming for hydroelectric power, have on the capacity to move goods to global markets. 

A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001–2019 (January 2022). In January 2022, the National Waterways Foundation (NWF) commissioned an update of its study comparing selected impacts of utilizing inland waterways barge transportation to highway and rail transportation. was conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Port and Waterways. Originally conducted and peer reviewed in 2007, the study was also previously updated in 2011 and 2017 when data sets were available.  The 2022 update addresses cargo capacity, congestion, emissions, energy efficiency, safety and infrastructure impacts.  

Modal Comparison Study Graphics

Inland Waterways State Profiles, August 2020 (see individual state profiles linked below*)

In 2020, the National Waterways Foundation (NWF) commissioned Cambridge Systematics, Inc. (CSI) to research and create inland waterways state profiles using the National IMPLAN economic model to estimate the economic impacts of each state’s inland waterways system. The analysis included an evaluation of current economic and commodity flow information, inland waterways and waterways-dependent industries, top commodities, and the industries that most benefit from the inland waterways in each state. The profiles also include high-level, national benefits of and statistics for the inland waterways.  

CSI’s data-driven methodology and process leveraged analysis from reports and research published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NWF, state agencies, Federal Highway Administration, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, among other sources.   

The 17 state profiles reveal the number of inland waterways-supported jobs, associated state and local tax revenue, the volume of freight moving on the state’s inland waterways and how that equates to numbers of trucks, top inland commodities by weight and value, key industries in the state supported by the inland waterways, and how many miles of navigable inland waterways traverse the state.   

The states profiled* are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin

Here, find CSI's Data Methodology for the state profiles.

Conducted by the Center for Ports & Waterways at Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), this National Waterways Foundation (NWF) study examines how Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) is conducted by the Corps and compared with other Federal Agencies (Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Tiger Grant program; the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The study also examines Remaining Benefit Remaining Cost (RBRC) Ratio vs. the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) metric as a way to evaluate Corps’ navigation projects under construction.

The Impacts of Lock Outages, October 2017

The National Waterways Foundation (NWF), in cooperation with the Maritime Administration (MARAD), released this study to examine the economic impacts of unscheduled lock outages that highlights economic benefits associated with reliable inland waterways navigation. The study was conducted by the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, and the Vanderbilt Engineering Center for Transportation and Operational Resiliency at Vanderbilt University.   It studied four geographically different locks on the inland waterways system:  Markland Locks and Dam (Ohio River near Cincinnati), which opened in 1959; Calcasieu Lock (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana), which opened in 1950; LaGrange Lock and Dam (southern-most of the navigation structures on the Illinois River), which opened in 1939; and Lock and Dam 25 (Mississippi River, north of St. Louis), which opened in 1939.  These four locks support traffic on every segment of the Mississippi River system. 

A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2014

Conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, Center for Ports and Waterways, this study compares selected societal, environmental, and safety impacts of utilizing inland river barge transportation to highway and rail transportation for the years 2001-2014.  The study was updated in January 2017.  Its findings show that waterways transportation keeps our nation's commerce on the move in the safest, most fuel-efficient, environmentally sound way.

“Inland Navigation in the United States: An Evaluation of Economic Impacts and the Potential Effects of Infrastructure Investment,” University of Tennessee and University of Kentucky, November 2014

The U.S. is on the brink of a watershed era where transportation planning tools will be of increased importance. For example, as a direct result of large and unforeseen increases in available and affordable domestic energy resources and other areas of opportunity, there is a growing sense that the U.S. economy can look forward to increasing productivity and attendant prosperity. Realizing this opportunity requires the nation’s transportation sector to adapt accordingly. 

This study evaluates the commercial navigation’s system-wide economic impact, both as it is currently configured, and as it might be through renewed infrastructure investment. Beginning with a basic analytical framework anchored in navigation’s role as a productive input in various industrial processes, and extending through technical choices necessary to implement that framework, the study reflects actual, real-world economic interactions and consequences of the current inland navigation system and one where proper infrastructure investments are made.

"Cost of Project Delays:  An Estimate of Foregone Benefits and Other Costs Related to Schedule Delays of Inland Waterways Projects” by HDR Decision Economics, June 2012

This 2011-2013 study, "Cost of Project Delays:  An Estimate of Foregone Benefits for Inland Waterways Projects" by HDR Decision Economics looks at societal cost resulting from delays to inland waterways infrastructure projects, the benefits foregone from those delays, and the costs imposed by those delays.

"Toward a Full Accounting of the Beneficiaries of Navigable Waterways," January 2011 by the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research

This January 2011 study, performed by the University of Tennessee, Center for Transportation Research for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, looks as the range of potential beneficiaries of America's inland waterway pools and channels.  It examines two specific projects:  Chickamauga and Kentucky Reservoirs. 


A Strong Inland Waterways System Delivers a Stronger American Economy

"Waterways: National Economic Return on Investment" (Nov. 2014)

Waterways: Vital to the Nation


Powerpoint Presentation: A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2019 (January 2022) 

This powerpoint presentation captures the key elements of the January 2022 updated study, “A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2019” conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, Center for Ports and Waterways.  The accompanying presenter script provides a slide-by-slide narrative about the findings of the study, which compares societal impacts of barge, rail and truck transportation modes.    Feel free to download this presentation for your use, contact Waterways Council, Inc. (202/765-2153), or the National Waterways Foundation (202/765-2153) to request a speaker, or incorporate this information into your own presentation.  



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