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Ship traffic on the Mississippi River near Luling, Louisiana in 2017. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Image

Mississippi River vessels will soon have access to an app similar to Waze but for boat traffic to help them navigate the river's tricky, ever-changing conditions.

Why it matters: The Mississippi River is a critical thoroughfare for American commerce but backups occur if large ships can't pass through shallow areas created by natural sediment or severe storms.

What's new: The country's first “smart port" in Baton Rouge, La. will use crowd-sourced data from tugs, barges and other vessels to help ships transit the river safely and efficiently.

  • The centerpiece of the digital platform is a "real-time shoaling forecast tool" that will collect depth data from workboats on the river, then use predictive analytics about sedimentation and shoaling to direct other vessels to the safest berths. 
  • The software will be coupled with a suite of weather, river, and road traffic analytics to improve efficiency and help the region’s ports become more resilient, especially in the face of natural disasters.
  • The $3 million project includes a new Smart Port facility in Baton Rouge, and is funded in part by a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency.

Go deeper

Shipping mania flashpoint: Retailers charter boats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The world’s shipping chaos is pushing mega-retailers to make new investments: their own cargo ships.

Why it matters: It’s one way big companies are trying to circumvent the pandemic-fueled supply chain crisis that’s left store shelves sparse.

Federal Reserve scales back expectations for economic recovery as Delta variant weighs

Fed chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Fed downgraded near-term expectations for the economy and the labor market, alongside hotter-than-expected inflation, in new estimates out on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time those closely-watched estimates reflect impact from the delta variant that's already rattled the labor market. Still, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said enough progress has been made to begin to pull back emergency-era measures that have supported the economy.

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but things fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.

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