Funding for port could bring economic growth to Cairo - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Funding for port could bring economic growth to Cairo

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CAIRO, Ill. --  A dirt levy road in Cairo currently sits empty, but soon a port terminal will occupy the land and part of the Mississippi River while bringing businesses, jobs and more people to the region.

Illinois State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) announced on Wednesday that $1 million in capital funding would be used to design and build a new river port in Cairo. 

The port would sit on the Mississippi River side of Cairo on Levee Road between 22nd and 36th Streets. The location for the terminal will be near the Canadian National Railroad and three major Illinois interstates.

Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman says he is excited for what is to come for the river city by adding the port.  

"This is the best news I've had in I don't know how long," Coleman said. 

Mayor Coleman says leaders have been talking about the port for years, but now the project is possible due to the state funding. 

"It's just been a lot of hands and a lot of movement from people to make this thing a reality and now here we are," Coleman said. 

Coleman grew up in Cairo and understands the difficult times the once thriving city is going through. 

"Whatever you wanted to do it, it was here, wherever you wanted to go, you came here to do it, to see it reversed takes a lot out of you," Coleman said. 

Earlier this year, 200 families were forced to move out of the area because of unsafe housing conditions. 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is aware of the support the southern Illinois city needs and told News 3 he is on board with project.

"That area, Alexander County and Cairo in particularly, needs a shot in the arm," Durbin said. "They need an economic turnaround. If this port district can be the key to that, I want to be a part of it."

Now that there is funding for the project, designing and construction can begin. 

"There is acreage that is going to be needed for container storage," Fowler said. "Trucks will be coming in to drop containers off and those containers can only go out on a barge so fast."

Fowler says businesses have already shown interest in the development of the port. 

"Bringing all these resources together can make a difference not just a community, but in people's lives," Fowler said. "It's going to be rewarding to a lot of people."

Mayor Coleman says Cairo will receive 50 percent of the profits earned from the land. Money he hopes to use to revamp the city. 

"I think this will be the pivotal turning point not just for Cairo but this region," Coleman said. 

The funding for this port is in the current fiscal year's state budget (FY2019).

Leaders says construction on the project should start next year and will take two years to complete.  

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