Midwest highways may be a little less crowded this summer, thanks to a cargo-shipping route across Lake Michigan.

In lieu of sending freight trucks by land from Wisconsin through congested Chicago and up into Michigan — and vice versa — the new route will allow transit of goods from the Port of Milwaukee to the Port of Muskegon and back.

Les Brand, CEO of Grand Rapids-based logistics and transportation facilitator Supply Chain Solutions, announced the cross-lake shipping initiative at the Rail Supply Chain Summit 2017 in Chicago last month.

Brand said SCS and its partners secured Lake Michigan’s first marine highway designation from the U.S. Department of Transportation as an alternative to trucking goods through one of the busiest routes in the country, I-80/I-94.

“The marine highway designation … was sponsored by the Port of Milwaukee and Eco Ships,” Brand said. “It’s a big deal in terms of getting the initial service started.”

Newaygo-based Eco Ships will provide freight ships for the marine highway and will schedule the liner service.

Brand said the first crossing is planned for the end of August or early September, depending on when the ports can complete operational logistics, such as loading and unloading equipment.

The water pathway is expected to increase the speed of freight deliveries by a factor of four, Brand said.

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