Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Locks and Dam Project Stalled Replacement for Elizabeth Delayed

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Locks and Dam Project Stalled Replacement for Elizabeth Delayed

Article excerpt

The 107-year-old locks and dam on the Monongahela River at Elizabeth were supposed to be gone long ago, with more modern locks and dams at Braddock and Charleroi replacing them as part of a $750 million project Congress approved in 1992.

Funding delays and cost overruns at other river projects that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees mean the new locks project now is expected to cost $2.7 billion. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2004, the project might not be finished for another decade or longer.

Industry officials and congressional staffers got a firsthand look at the funding hole Friday as Corps officials took them down into the dewatered bottom of one of Elizabeth's two locks, where $3 million in repairs are being made to lock gates and valves used to empty the chamber. A similar project costing $2 million was completed in 2006, two years after Elizabeth's locks and dam were to have been removed.

"We're hoping this is the last time, but that's what we thought in 2006," said Don Fogel, who is in charge of maintenance in the Corps' Pittsburgh office.

Standing in the bottom of the chamber, Mr. Fogel gave chunks of concrete from the ancient lock's crumbly walls as souvenirs to visiting Corps dignitaries and a representative of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. He said the Corps has spent $13 million repairing Elizabeth since 2006, more than six times the $1.7 million cost of building the project in 1907.

It is money that could have been spent on other river projects that also are in dire need of repair or replacement.

About 60 percent of the Corps' 242 locks and related dams are older than 50 years, which was their projected lifespan, according to AEP River Operations executive Martin Hettel, chairman of an industry group that advises the Corps.

Legislation that President Barack Obama recently signed could advance completion of the Lower Mon project. …

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