Shuster Set to Address Infrastructure Needs at Congressional
27 January 2017
By Tom Fontaine
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster will hold a congressional hearing next week
about finding more money to improve the nation's crumbling roads,
bridges and other critical infrastructure.
“With infrastructure on the front burner of the policy debate both
in Congress and within the Trump administration, Chairman Shuster
wants to focus attention on the need to focus infrastructure
investment to maximize American competitiveness, encourage job
creation and promote innovation,” Shuster spokesman Casey Contres
Shuster, R-Bedford County, whose district includes Fayette and
Indiana counties and parts of Westmoreland, Washington and Greene,
is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
“Next week's hearing will set the stage for the committee's work
in the new Congress by exploring what must be done to build an
American infrastructure for the 21st century,” Contres said.
The hearing, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Wednesday, will feature
testimony from AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka and four
corporate executives whose businesses are in the transportation
sector or depend upon various aspects of the nation's
All signs point to Washington taking steps to improve the nation's
President Donald Trump made boosting infrastructure funding a
cornerstone of his campaign, promising up to $1 trillion in new
spending. Infrastructure was the second policy topic Trump
mentioned in his election-night victory speech, and he brought it
up during his inaugural address.
Of 11 executive orders and presidential memorandums issued by
Trump through Thursday, two dealt with infrastructure.
An order Tuesday called for government to “streamline and
expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews
and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially projects
that are a high priority for the nation, such as improving the
U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing
and upgrading critical port facilities, airports, pipelines,
bridges and highways.”
“Too often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been
routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and
procedures,” Trump wrote in that order.
The same day, Trump issued a memo related to construction of the
Dakota Access pipeline. Among other things, he called for an
expedited review of construction and easement requests to complete
the pipeline, which has been the target of protests by the Native
American and environmental groups.
It's not just Trump or other Republicans such as Shuster who
believe more investment is needed: Senate Democrats on Tuesday
pitched a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, though it wasn't clear
how it would be funded.
Administration officials have said they expect Trump to offer
details this spring on how he would generate the $1 trillion for
his infrastructure plan, The Associated Press reported.
Two multibillion-dollar projects on Western Pennsylvania's rivers
could benefit from a plan to boost federal infrastructure funding.
A $2.7 billion project to repair two lock-and-dam facilities and
remove a third facility on the Monongahela River was given a green
light to proceed in 2004 but has inched along. The Army Corps
still needs to complete improvements to Locks and Dam 4 in
Charleroi and remove Locks and Dam 3 in Elizabeth.
“We've been given small, incremental pieces of funding since 2009,
so we've had to break up the project into small incremental pieces
of work,” said Lenna Hawkins, deputy engineer for the Army Corps
of Engineers' Pittsburgh district.
The project is on pace to be completed in 2023, Hawkins said.
Congress last year authorized up to $2.7 billion in federal
funding to repair three lock-and-dam facilities on the Ohio River,
but no money has been allocated to improve the Emsworth, Dashields
and Montgomery locks and dams between Pittsburgh and the Ohio
line. The facilities began operating between 1921 and 1936.
Of those, Montgomery locks and dam in Beaver County is in the
“There is a 50 percent probability that it will fail by 2028,”
Hawkins said of Montgomery.
Montgomery's two locks share a middle wall that has a crack
running vertically from the foundation to the surface. If the
crack became bad enough, authorities could be forced to close both
locks — a move that would halt river traffic in both directions on
the Upper Ohio River.
Barge operators along the region's rivers are accustomed to such
Equipment failures, flooding and other problems at Montgomery
caused 196 unscheduled closures of locks between 2013 and 2015,
keeping them out of service for a combined 8,974 hours, according
to Army Corps data. By comparison, Emsworth and Dashields had a
combined 203 closures amounting to 658 hours, Army Corps data
Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at
412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press