TELL CITY, Ind. (WEHT) A project upgrading a southwest Indiana port gets a visit from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and former South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg. He toured the Tell City River Port in Perry County.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg called infrastructure the foundation of building futures during his appearance today in Tell City. Officials hope that the work being done here at the River Port will lead to a better future here and across the region.

“Communities rise and fall based on the quality of their infrastructure,” he said.

It’s a major part of Tell City’s infrastructure. The River Port is working on a new 40 foot pier, using a $1.6 million dollar federal grant awarded last year.

“Our teamwork and relationship with INDOT has allowed us to progress our community in a direction of continued strength and sustainability,” said Tell City Mayor Chris Cail.

Federal officials say the port moves an average of 81,000 tons of material, including 72,000 tons of pig iron that’s used at Waupaca in Perry County, per year. Secretary Buttigieg says it can help load and unload more of those materials no matter how high the river gets.

“That means if the water is too high, or if the water is too low, there’s a risk of tipping, it gets derated, they can’t carry as much load. Bottom line is this, by supplementing that floating crane with someone that’s land based, it means they can process more of the raw materials that come by barge,” he explained.

“We get material through the port, so the port, rail, and trucking, those are all the ways we get material to the plant, so that’s how we’re able to keep our facility going,” said Cody Rhodes, a plant manager at Waupaca.

It also happens after the passage of the recent infrastructure bill. Buttigieg says improving rural infrastructure helps towns like tell city keep economic opportunities going.

“This is the start of an on going partnership, where together we are finding the best ways to use these federal resources to support the local priorities that make life better, and create economic opportunity for all Americans,” he said.

Secretary Buttigieg also said that once the work is done here, productivity is expected to increase here up to 60%.

(This story was originally published on April 13, 2022)