While the massive flooding that has paralyzed parts of the Midwest for the better part of four weeks is finally subsiding, its effect on the trucking industry remains.
Continued road closures are the primary concern in many states with U.S. Highway 34 between Iowa and Illinois among the key roads still shut down. Low-lying areas around a bridge remain flooded, preventing travel over the main artery in the southwest corner of Iowa. Dena Gray-Fisher, director of media and marketing services for the Iowa Dept. of Transportation, did not have a specific timetable for the opening of the Interstate at this point, but said it likely will be after July 4th.
Gray-Fisher said that up to 500 mi. of roadway was closed in Iowa at the height of the flooding, with 125 mi. still undriveable, including four bridges that remain closed. The biggest inconvenience to truckers, and travelers alike, came when a portion of Interstates 80 and 380 were closed for about three days, resulting in a four-hour detour. “Thank goodness that has been resolved,” Gray-Fisher said.
The federal government announced Wednesday the immediate release of $1 million in emergency relief funds for Iowa to help repair damaged roads and bridges in the state. “As governor, I am committed to doing whatever I can to return life to normal for Iowans, and this funding will help us do just that,” Gov. Chet Culver said. “Together, with the help and cooperation of everyone on the local, state and federal levels, I am confident that we will rebuild our state – even better and stronger than before.”
Gray-Fisher said the Iowa DOT had to inspect 107 bridges in closed areas in the immediate aftermath, with one now carrying a weight restriction, and there is still no barge traffic moving on the Mississippi River.
Illinois, also hard hit by the flooding, now has reopened all but 15 roads. Other areas, while hard hit, have recovered quickly. In Missouri, there are still 82 state highways with closures and three major bridges still closed, including the Interstate 54 bridge over the Mississippi near the Louisiana border and a bridge on Route 61 near Alexandria over the Des Moines River, Missouri DOT spokesman Jeff Briggs said.
Wisconsin Motor Carriers Assn. president Tom Howells said his state is recovering quickly. “Clearly it was a frustrating time for everyone,” he said. “We’re coping. Things are getting back to normal.”
Howells was not aware of any freight disruptions in Wisconsin beyond detours for road closures. “I think the freight’s been moving. I haven’t heard of any cases of freight not being able to move from Point A to Point B. In some cases, it had to go through Points C and D,” he said.
Howells, who said this was the worst flooding he’s seen in 29 years, said it is a small blow for Wisconsin truckers financially due to the additional miles and fuel costs associated with the detours. Wisconsin instituted a 30% hike in truck registrations this year as well.