TERRE HAUTE - The Interim Committee on Transportation Matters met at Terre Haute International Airport Tuesday morning to listen to testimony for a potential inland port.
An inland port allows a shipping container to be transferred between a ship and a road vehicle or train. Any goods in the container can only be loaded or unloaded at its point of origin or when it arrives at its final destination.
The Committee consists of numerous state senators and representatives including Vern Tincher (D-Dist. 46), and Representative Clyde Kersey (D-Dist. 43), who also is the vice-chairperson of the committee.
Vigo County officials, along with members of INDOT and the Indiana Ports Commission discussed the feasibility and statewide benefits of an inland port in Indiana.
"There is so much infrastructure available in the area including railroads, water, and gas," Vigo County Commissioner Judy Anderson said.
The port, which would cover approximately 7,000 acres of land, will need the cooperation and movement of the railroads in order to become a reality.
"The railroads, in essence, will drive the decision on whether or not the port is created," Executive Director of the Indiana Ports Commission Rich Cooper said. "If they don't see the same possibilities we do and choose not to go along with the current idea, we are basically whistling Dixie."
The land where the port is being proposed is located south of State Road 42, mainly in Vigo County, but includes part of Clay County, which excites Brazil Mayor Ann Bradshaw at the thought of economic growth in the area.
"If this were to happen, it would be wonderful for not only Clay County, but it would benefit the City of Brazil as well," Bradshaw said.
Approximately 5,000 of the acres are owned a single group who is looking to sell, but problems may lie ahead.
"Part of the land they want to use is being occupied by groups with lease agreements with the owner to develop it already," Jim Coffenberry, an economic development official with the West Central Indiana Economic Development District, said.
Clay County currently has a lease agreement with the owners for approximately 500-600 acres of land within the proposed area for the inland port, which is being used to sift coal particles out of the water at the old Chinook Mine location. Headwaters Energy Services, a coal-based synthetic fuel company out of Utah, finalized the agreement at the June meeting of the Clay County Commissioners.
However, the plan for the inland port is still in the stage where information is being gathered and is a long way from being started.
"It is a new concept and we are still trying to gather all the information we can about it," Kersey said. "There are a lot of advantages to having an inland port in the area like the airport, which has a foreign trade zone designation, but it is still in the very early stages of the process."