Increased Investment in Pittsburgh Region’s Locks and Dams Gets
16 February 2013
By Craig Smith
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff Reporter Craig Smith can be
reached at 412-380-5646
Citing a “catastrophic” period in the history of Western
Pennsylvania's locks and dams, elected and industry officials are
supporting Sen. Bob Casey's legislation to increase investment in
waterways projects and improve the way they are managed.
The region's 23 locks are old, and in some cases crumbling,
officials said. Some have unstable chamber walls and others lost
large chunks of concrete from their chamber walls.
“This is about the future. ... Western Pennsylvania doesn't wait
for the future, it invents the future,” Casey said Friday in
outlining his bill in Pittsburgh.
About 41 million tons of cargo are shipped and received each year
through the Port of Pittsburgh, the second-largest inland port in
the country. The primary cargo is coal but millions of tons of
sand, gravel, iron ore, manufactured goods, petroleum, petroleum
products and chemicals also pass through Pittsburgh, where
thousands of jobs depend on the reliable operations of river
Casey, a Scranton Democrat who was appointed Tuesday to the Senate
Finance Committee, said the position will allow him to fight for
“I will have a seat at the table in addressing responsible tax
reform to spur innovation, create jobs and promote economic
growth,” he said.
His bill calls for an increase in the inland waterways user fee
from 20 cents to 29 cents per gallon that barge operators pay on
fuel, a change industry officials said they support. It also
contains changes to the way waterway projects are managed to
ensure cost overruns are reduced.
It takes about 30 years to complete an Army Corps of Engineer
project, said Michael J. Toohey, CEO of the Waterways Council Inc.
of Arlington, Va., which lobbies for funding of inland waterway
“We have $8 billion of shovel-ready projects,” he said.
Michael W. Hennessey, vice president of sales and marketing for
Brownsville Marine Products LLC in Fayette County, said
maintenance of the eight locks and dams on the Allegheny, the nine
on the Monongahela and the six on the Ohio, must be a priority.
“We are in a catastrophic period. ... If we have a failure of a
lock in Pittsburgh, we are out of business,” Hennessey said.
Casey's bill would allow risk-based cost estimates that would help
to ensure they are not exceeded and project schedules are kept.
Projects that cost more than $45 million would be required to go
through an independent external peer review.
The bill also requires the secretary of the Army to work with the
Inland Waterways Users board to develop a 20-year plan for
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.