As part of a national effort to redirect funding from operations to maintenance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh will change the hours and days of operation of several locks on the Allegheny River. Three locks will be restored to 24/7 service and Locks 6 and 7 will be reduced to commercial appointments only.
Given the deteriorating condition of the locks, services are being adjusted based on usage to help reduce costs. Jeff Hawk, Public Affairs Officer for the Corps’ Pittsburgh branch, said there is a direct relationship between funding and lock usage.
“The locks on the upper Allegheny haven’t seen significant commercial traffic for years and this system was built for commercial traffic and that’s the way we get our funding,” Hawk said.
Lock 2 at Highland Park, the C.W. Bill Young Lock (# 3) in New Kensington, and Lock 4 at Natrona will operate around the clock. Lock 6 in Clinton and Lock 7 in Kittanning will be available to commercial traffic by appointment only. No recreational services will be provided.
Only Lock 5 at Freeport will not be affected by the service changes and will continue to operate from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. However, from December 3, 2012 through May 5, 2013, it will be limited to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and be closed on federal holidays.
Last year, Locks 8 and 9 were also reduced to commercial appointments only as a result of a budget cut from $8.4 million to $4.2 million. Hawk said the money has to be put towards addressing critical issues, such as frequent breakdowns in multiple locks.
“We have about the same budget as we’ve always had and in order to provide a reliable system, we have to look at addressing all this critical, millions of dollars in critical backlog maintenance that’s out there on our main systems,” Hawk said.
A public meeting will be held tomorrow night at 7:00 at the East Franklin Township Fire Hall in Armstrong County. “We’ll explore any ideas, we’ll listen to any ideas that folks have out there on how we can take our limited funds and create a partnership with the community that has an interest in keeping these locks open,” Hawk said.
The changes are scheduled to go into effect before the end of the year.