A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Transportation is seeing some good trends in rail and other transportation areas for the state’s economy.

The DOT’s Stuart Anderson gave a report on the issue to the Transportation Commission. “It’s flattened out a bit — but if you diver deeper into the trend of commodities moving by rail there’s some real bright spots — particularly on the grain side,” Anderson says. “The grain movements by rail in November were the highest since October of 2007. So, obviously, that’s a good indicator for Iowa’s agricultural economy and the export market.”

Anderson says there’s also been an increase in intermodal shipments by trains and trucks. “Those are generally the retail products in intermodal containers. November was the sixth-highest ever recorded in terms of carloads,” according to Anderson. “Buy for one week, it was trending toward being the best month ever.”

There were reports of many people taking trips during Thanksgiving despite COVID warnings. Anderson says the airline numbers still remain down. “We’re still seeing passenger counts at about 35 to 40 percent of the pre-pandemic levels,” he says. “And despite what you saw in some of the Thanksgiving television coverage — the airport counts during Thanksgiving were again well below what they had been pre-pandemic.”

Anderson says traffic on the roadways was running about ten percent below the 2019 levels until just recently when it dipped to 15 percent below 2019. “What we have seen since mid-November though is a bit of a shift. Mid-November reflected the latest surge in COVID-19 in the state — and also the governor’s statewide mask mandate and the encouragement of more teleworking. So, we’ve seen a direct correlation with those activities and actions with statewide travel,” Anderson says.

Anderson expects the travel levels to remain lower for some time. “Certainly through the winter and maybe even beyond that as we are seeing longer term changes in teleworking as a result of going through this,” Anderson explains.

Anderson says the continued drop in travel is projected to lead to around a three percent decrease in fuel taxes coming in.