skip navigation Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Logo
Drivers & Vehicles | Safety | Travel | Plans & Projects | State Patrol | Doing Business | Programs for Local Gov't

Wisconsin waterways have ripple effect on economy

September 5, 2013

Governor proclaims next week as Ports Week across the state

Governor Scott Walker has proclaimed September 9 to 15 Wisconsin Ports Week. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin (TDA) are teaming up to promote, educate and celebrate the network of ports that contribute to the state’s economy, environment and quality of life.

"Wisconsin is committed to improving waterborne commerce along our Great Lakes and the Mississippi River," said Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb. "Through our Harbor Assistance Program, the state has invested nearly $113 million in more than 80 public and private port improvement projects since 1980. These projects add to the overall success of the state’s transportation network and keep Wisconsin’s economy moving forward."

Each year, Wisconsin’s 29 commercial ports handle more than 40 million tons of cargo, valued at more than $8 billion. In addition, they provide an important transportation alternative for the movement of goods, generate approximately $1.6 billion in economic activity, and support almost 10,000 jobs. Ports are also used as hubs for passenger transportation (ferries) and for several recreational activities.

Key products moved through Wisconsin’s ports and waterways include coal, cement, limestone, asphalt, heavy machinery, wood products, metal materials and steel, bagged and canned cargo, wind energy components, and farm and agricultural products.

"Agriculture in Wisconsin is not only thriving, but growing in leaps and bounds, partially due to our water commerce capabilities," explained Tom Bressner, executive director of the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association. "Ports on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior export grains and oilseeds to Canada, and through the St. Lawrence Seaway, to key markets worldwide. Our access to the Mississippi River allows grains, oilseeds and feed ingredients to be barged to world markets through the Gulf of Mexico, and allows crop fertilizers, micro-nutrients, and other agronomic inputs to efficiently enter Wisconsin."

Water transportation is an efficient and environmentally responsible way to transport bulk commodities. A barge can move one ton of cargo more than 600 miles on a gallon of fuel. This is more miles than by rail (478 miles) or by truck (150 miles).

According to Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin Executive Director Craig Thompson, "Activity in our ports is generally a good indicator for the strength of Wisconsin’s economy overall and the numbers are looking good. Wisconsin’s ports are a huge advantage for our agricultural businesses, manufacturers and other key industries. Most states in this country simply don’t enjoy access to this incredibly efficient means of moving product."

Notes: View Governor Walker’s Ports Week Proclamation online. View a map of Wisconsin commercial ports. Find more information about Wisconsin’s waterborne commerce on WisDOT’s web site.

For more information, contact:
Brock Bergey, WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 267-3300,

Laurel Cavalluzzo, TDA of Wisconsin
(608) 663-9867,



WisDOT radio newsline

Other news releases:

Law of the month

Public hearings and meetings

WisDOT media contacts