Government & Politics
6:23 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Aging Lower Mon Infrastructure May Get A Facelift Sooner Than Expected

The Charleroi Locks and Dam system are one of three lock and dam systems on the Lower Monongahela that are slated for an upgrade.
The Charleroi Locks and Dam system are one of three lock and dam systems on the Lower Monongahela that are slated for an upgrade.
Credit Flickr user cssna

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) was in Pittsburgh Monday touting a “major bipartisan agreement” that will free up funds for the country’s inland waterways.

Casey called the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA, a “must-pass bill” that has broad support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Senator said the poor state of locks and dams along inland waterways is costing Pennsylvania $224 million a year in lost revenue, and that the legislation was written in partnership with industry.

“Folks who run companies that have to get barges through locks and dams know the reality of what they’re up against, and they came up with a lot of good ideas,” Casey said.

The bill will free up $124 million for inland waterway projects this year. This year, $74.8 million of that will go toward projects on the Lower Monongahela River.

Casey said he is also awaiting passage of a separate bill that would increase a fuel fee levied on vehicles that travel the country’s inland waterways, which would bring in addition $25-30 million a year. Together, Casey said the two bills will go a long way toward restoring decaying infrastructure.

“This isn’t a one year, two year, three year, four year kind of race,” Casey said. “It’s more of a marathon, but you’ve got to have the fuel in the tank to get through the marathon.”

Given the current state of gridlock over many pieces of legislation in both houses, Casey said he was a bit surprised by how much support he got from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“Because it has such a substantial impact on a region like Southwestern Pennsylvania as well as other parts of the country … we were able to develop a bipartisan coalition,” Casey said.

The senator said around 200,000 jobs are affected by commerce along Pennsylvania’s inland waterways

“What I’m hoping is that because we’ll have this system on a better pathway, that we can grow that 200,000, we can actually add jobs over time,” Casey said.