Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McCaskill: Olmsted Cost Overruns 'Outrageous, Inexcusable'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McCaskill: Olmsted Cost Overruns 'Outrageous, Inexcusable'

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Billions in cost overruns and years of delay at a Southern Illinois dam project are unacceptable and stand in the way of other vital projects along the nation's marine transportation system, senators from Missouri and Illinois said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, shipping industry leaders moved to distance themselves from the Army Corps of Engineers' work overseeing the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, arguing that the Inland Waterways Users Board had no authority to force a change in dam-building methods during the long and troubled project.

The senators and industry leaders were responding to a report in the Post-Dispatch on Sunday describing problems that have plagued Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River.

Authorized by Congress in 1988 at a cost of $775 million, the price tag of the locks and dam has soared to a projected $3.1 billion and has years to go before completion.

A main cause is the corps' insistence on an innovative construction method in which dam segments are floated into place rather than using diversionary cofferdams that yield a dry environment in the riverbed.

This week, the House will cast its first vote on legislation to boost taxpayer assistance for Olmsted.

One provision calls for boosting taxpayers' share of river construction to 75 percent, rather than the 50-50 split with industry now in effect; the Senate legislation would shift to the Treasury all of the estimated $1.6 billion needed to finish the project.

The bill is expected to advance through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as early as Thursday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill said the corps should be held accountable at Olmsted in part because revelations of mismanagement can douse taxpayer support for critically needed spending.

"Beyond the outrageous and inexcusable waste of taxpayer dollars, it's debacles like this that shake the public's confidence in public investment and become a poster child for those who doubt the wisdom of critical infrastructure projects," McCaskill, D-Mo. …

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