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Economic Impact of West Virginia’s Inland Waterways

Posted on March 4, 2024

America’s inland waterways system is vital to our nation’s competitiveness and economic growth. The inland waterways efficiently, sustainably, cost-effectively and safely transport critical commodities like agricultural goods, energy products, building materials and industrial chemicals to destinations within the U.S. and to deep water ports for export. In 2021, nearly 500 million tons of goods valued at more than $158 billion moved on the U.S. inland waterways system. The U.S. Department of Transportation Freight Analysis Framework freight forecasts suggest total water tonnage will increase at an annual growth of 0.7% per year through 2040. Barge transportation is the safest, most environmentally friendly, economical, and fuel-efficient way to move our nation’s goods for use domestically and for export. On a single gallon of fuel, one barge can move freight more than four times farther than trucks, releasing 10 times fewer emissions.

Called “the backbone of the transportation logistics system,” the inland waterways are a key part of the United States’ transportation supply chain. The system includes a vast network of 12,000 miles of connecting waterways and 219 locks. However, the majority of locks and dams on the Mississippi River system were constructed during the 1930s and are operating well beyond their 50-year design life. Modernizing the nation’s inland waterways system will support and create American jobs, increase U.S. exports, and inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy to power our growth for the next 50 years.


HO Waterways WV 231108 

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