Ripple effect: Ethanol plants may cause traffic tie-ups, potholes, repairs


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – On the road to making the United States energy independent, people are likely to find potholes, highway congestion and construction zones, said Frank Dooley, a Purdue University agricultural economist who specializes in transportation.
While the ethanol boom should reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, delivering corn to production plants and the finished product to retailers could create a transportation problem in Indiana, Dooley said.
“The grain and transportation industries face dramatic changes over the next few years as a result of the growth of the ethanol industry,” Dooley said.
Dooley examines the ethanol industry’s impact on grain shipping and transportation systems in Purdue Extension publication ID-329, The Effect of Ethanol on Grain Transportation and Storage. It appears on Purdue’s BioEnergy Web site.
Assumptions. The race to build ethanol plants is a positive sign for agriculture, but the plants are going up faster than the transportation infrastructure to support them, Dooley said.
“When a group of investors gets ready to build a plant, they always assume they’ll have a transportation system in place and that products can move from point A to point B,” he said.
“We tend to take transportation for granted. But when you start something as massive as what we’re talking about with ethanol in Indiana, there can be some pretty big implications.”
Predictions. Dooley predicts the following will occur in the next few years:

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