JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Supporters of opening a new river port in central Missouri are one step closer to their goal.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved an application to create the Heartland Port Authority of Central Missouri near Jefferson City.

The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports the commission's decision mean the project can go forward but it is still in its early stages.

Before a port can be built, the Heartland Port Authority will conduct preliminary work at two potential sites being considered for the port.

Randy Allen, president of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, says several things, including environmental studies and plans for roads around the port, must still be done.

The transportation department's approval also will help the new port authority with grant applications.

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com