Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill Would Increase Funding for Locks, Dams

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill Would Increase Funding for Locks, Dams

Article excerpt

Legislation that would provide increased federal money for long- delayed repairs to crumbling locks and dams on the Monongahela River will be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Wednesday his proposal would raise the diesel tax that barge operators pay to help fund major river infrastructure improvements. It would also make an Ohio River project plagued by more than $2 billion in cost overruns ineligible to receive money from a trust fund supported by the tax.

New locks and a dam being built on the Ohio River near Olmsted, Ill., currently receive $147 million of the $170 million in federal funding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is allotted each year to build new facilities or make major repairs to existing infrastructure.

That leaves little money for other projects, including building new locks on the Mon River at Charleroi so that a 105-year-old lock and dam upriver at Elizabeth can be demolished.

Michael Hennessey, a member of an industry panel that advises the Corps on locks and dams spending, said the legislation "is going to help us here in Pittsburgh."

"If you take Olmsted out, those dollars should transfer directly to the Lower Mon project. They should get a lot more," said Mr. Hennessey, who works for Brownsville Marine Products, a Mon River company that builds barges.

More than 200 locks and the dams located alongside them make it possible to move about 550 million tons of coal, grain and other commodities annually on the nation's 11,000-mile river system. More than half of the facilities are older than the 50 years they were designed to last, with Pittsburgh having some of the oldest locks and dams in the country.

The Corps says many locks and dams are on the brink of failure and are wearing out faster than Congress is providing funds to repair or replace them. …

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