BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A commodity group is doing its part to help solve the state’s crumbling road and bridge infrastructure troubles.

The Illinois Soybean Association has spearheaded an effort that hinges on engaging stakeholders to find real-world solutions.

A public-private partnership pilot program under way in Peoria County uses all of the infrastructure data collected by ISA-supported studies.

“We then worked with Hanson Engineering of Peoria who inspected the bridges to help determine which are of highest priority,” said Paul Rasmussen of Genoa, ISA district director.

The partnership includes working with the Peoria Farm Bureau and a local corn and soybean group.

“It’s just getting people together, getting them to talk about these issues and then setting priorities for which project has the highest needs based on several different factors,” Rasmussen said. “The factors include not only the transportation of farm products, but emergency services, school buses and all of those are also involved.”

The information collected is used to help the governmental entities prioritize infrastructure improvement projects.

“We can identify ways to increase capacity and/or reduce the costs. The initiative in Peoria County will serve as an example for other organizations and communities,” Rasmussen said.

Combined Effort

Mike Levin, ISA director of issues management analysis, said this is just one example where ISA is working at the local level.

“Peoria County has a lot of transportation logistics that are not only important for agriculture, but important for a lot of other industries, as well,” Levin said.

“We’re working not only with these two groups, but with other experts in the field such as engineers and others who have the expertise to really bring these priority projects to the surface and where do they fall in line within the next year, within the next five year of being maintained.

“We’re very fortunate to have been working with them, and we were very successful in moving a couple of the projects up on the list of bridges that not only mean a lot of us in agriculture, but to others, as well.”

A soybean check-off supported study conducted by Informa Economics found that 15.4 percent of Illinois bridges were defined as structurally deficient or obsolete.

The study also found that for every $1 invested in bridge repairs has a return on investment of $10.24.

“When we post a bridge (load limit) or when a bridge closes we have to detour. That could lead to miles and that means dollars and time. So we’re working with all of these things to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Levin said.

Illinois’ Advantage

Illinois has a competitive edge with its transportation system and needs to maintain the infrastructure to maintain that advantage.

About 54 percent of Illinois soybeans are destined for exports, and at least half of the soybeans processed domestically are transported by rail.

“When we’ve visited with the shippers from around the world, we’ve expressed to them about the ability we have to get to all three coastlines of the United States relatively quickly,” Rasmussen said. “We have a lot of major roadways. All seven freight rail lines are Class I. We have significant waterways and a centralized location.

“We can take barges down the Mississippi River in a cost-efficient timely manner or we can go to rail to the south, east or west coast either in bulk or container.”