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Port Of Milwaukee: Driving Our Local Economy

Ever wonder what goes on at the Port of Milwaukee?

If you've driven over the Hoan Bridge, you've seen the city's port, and whether you knew it or not, you saw our local economy in action.  Truth is, the round-the-clock activity at the port drives Milwaukee's economy and saves taxpayer money.

One of the biggest commodities the port handles is the city's ice melting salt supply.  More than one million tons of salt is stored there, and it all arrives via ship.  If that massive payload were to arrive via truck, it would cost the city an additional $40 million, according to Larry Sullivan, chief engineer at the Port of Milwaukee.

"We handle a lot of commodities here, and most of it comes by ship," said Sullivan.

"A port is an interchange between modes of transportation, so we need the rail and the highways.  It works out well," he added.

Beyond salt, shipments of steel and coal are constantly moving through the port.  The coal is used in area power plants, and the steel is used to make cans and sheets of steel.  All together, more than four million tons of cargo move through Bay View's back yard, all without disrupting the residential neighborhoods.

But it's not all about business.  There's recreation, too.

The Lake Express, a high speed car ferry connecting Milwaukee to Muskegon, Michigan, carries thousands of passengers each year.  Established in 2004, the ferry transports passengers across Lake Michigan in less than three hours.  That's compared to a more than five hour trip via car.

And the ferry is unique to Milwaukee.

"This is still the only one in the lower 48 states.  The only one of it's type is two vessels that work up in Alaska," said Ken Szallai, president of Lake Express.

To see everything in action, you can check out live video feeds from the lakefront --including the Port -- at

To hear the audio version of this story, click the podcast player below.