The Illinois International Port District has applied for a grant to extensively restore its multi-site campus in East Side and South Deering. Formally located at 3600 E 95th Street and commonly known as the Port of Chicago, the massive facility has been slowly crumbling into the lake as funding continues to dry up. However, its governing body hopes to get the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $34.5 million grant administered by the Maritime Administration.
The Port of Chicago’s long history dates back to 1848 with the creation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and establishing a bustling port. A subsequent port was developed on the Calumet River. In 1951, the Illinois General Assembly founded the current port district, but without tax levying rights. As a result, as noted by the Chicago Tribune, the port district is primarily financed by dock and operator fees.
This chronology leads to today, where most of the grounds have fallen into disrepair. While the port includes a massive piece of land near Big Marsh Park, with Lake Calumet serving as its turning basin terminus, the work to be carried out with the grant would focus on the most active part of the port at the mouth of the Calumet River. The lack of money has led to massive sinkholes, damaged facilities, and the crumbling of its 3,000-foot-long dock wall.
The funds would help replace the entirety of the dock wall with new heavy lift berths/cranes added for loading and unloading, add 1,700 feet of additional rail spurs and turnouts, allowing for 28 more rail cars to serve the site, as well as engineering for future shore power, hydrogen facilities, and bulk commodity transloading. The new wall would also help prevent the significant and looming ecological threat of the adjacent U.S. Army Corps toxic dump site leaking into the lake.
Once completed, it would significantly increase the capacity of the port, which currently cannot handle containers and only has two long-term tenants. At the moment, roughly 9 million tons of goods pass through the harbor, focusing on raw materials and wood, compared to the 32.5 million tons the port of Duluth, Minnesota, sees, according to the Tribune. The state would also like for this to serve as the landing site for parts of the future wind turbine farm on the lake.
According to the grant proposal, the overall project cost would be around $52.5 million, of which $34.5 would be from the grant, $13 million from the state, and $5 million from one of the aforementioned tenants, North American Stevedoring. The work would increase the port handling capacity by nearly 50 percent, with construction set to begin in Q1 of 2025 and be completed by the end of 2027.
The grant application PDF can be found here.