Highway, rail traffic drops a bit in December

DES MOINES — Traffic on the state highways was down some at the end of the year.

Stuart Anderson of the Department of Transportation gave a report Tuesday to the State Transportation Commission. “Did drop a bit in December, we were about two percent below the December 2019 levels. So again, still hovering right around our levels from pre-COVID,” Anderson says.

He says rail traffic saw a similar pattern. “January was down three percent from January 2021 rail carload levels. That is driven really across the board,” Anderson says. “The one sector that has shown some growth herein recent months is on the coal side. We are seeing with the high natural gas prices some shifting to coal, which is doing a little bit of a rebound from a long-term trend of being down for the amount of coal being shipped on the rail system.” 

He says the shipment of grain continues to be strong. “They’re lower than January of 2021 — but January ’21 was a really high point — it was the highest since 2015 in terms of the amount of grain shipped on rail, 2022 was the second-highest since 2015. So, still pretty good news on our grain shipment,” Anderson says. 

Anderson says air travel continues to hold around 88 percent of pre-pandemic levels.