This is what TIGER was meant to do. We've got three cities working together as a unified district. We're creating jobs laying rail track and building levee relief wells under the same funding. And we have a project that will serve trucks, trains, and barges--and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
That was my message yesterday in Granite City, Illinois, where I joined US Representative Jerry Costello and Tri-City Port District Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer to help break ground on the new South Loop, a 9,600 foot rail extension that will allow trains access to the Port District's South Harbor.
The rail work is supported by a $6 million grant from our Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery program (TIGER), made possible by the Recovery Act. Previously, full-size trains had to be separated into smaller segments. Port access for what are called "unit trains" will make a huge difference in efficiency, allowing the port district to expand its capacity.
Plus, the grant also helps pay for drilling new levee relief wells that will be part of the levee and drainage system at the port. The new wells will increase protection from underseepage along the Mississippi River levee system. Existing wells are so old that some parts of the system cannot be used, and we are pleased to help improve harbor safety.
But not only will this Recovery Act money put people to work right away in construction jobs. It also establishes the roots that will nourish Tri-City's planned Southwestern Illinois Regional Intermodal Freight Transportation Hub, a facility that will connect the Tri-Cities to the world economy.
The new hub will allow tons of bulk products--like grain and steel--to be moved by rail or truck to the port, where barges will pick up the cargo and carry it down the Mississippi River to New Orleans for export throughout the world. And expanded access to this marine highway will attract new businesses to the area. In fact, planners project the $23 million investment by the Tri-City Port District has a potential $1.24 billion benefit in economic activity for the Tri-City Port region of Granite City, Madison, and Venice, IL.
This boost to shipping is a key feature of TIGER as more than half of all TIGER grants went to freight projects. And this particular grant also supports the Obama Administration's goal of doubling American exports in the next five years.
Jobs now, ripple effects to suppliers and local businesses, and infrastructure for a 21st century economy characterized by long-term, sustainable growth and prosperity. It's happening in the Tri-City Port District of Illinois, and it's happening around the country.
This is the TIGER we promised; this is the TIGER we're delivering.