All this week, the Monongahela Lock and Dam 4 at Charleroi will be closed periodically as crews install massive panels on the lower river guard walls.
"It's going to cause some delays with river traffic, but it won't be closed the entire time. There will just be intermittent closures. Any recreational boaters should expect delays as commercial vessels will have priority during that time," said Dan Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He said this is a temporary fix to shore up the old and deteriorating lock walls. Engineers want to make sure they'll stay up until the funding is found for a more permanent fix.
This comes as Pennsylvania Congressmen Mark Critz and Mike Doyle urge the federal government to fix the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The pair spoke to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development last week as they consider the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act. Critz said, "the Inland Waterways System is far too important to allow it to continue to languish with inadequate funding and crumbling infrastructure."
But the Army Corps of Engineers realizes more funding may not be coming their way anytime soon.
"Everybody's tightening their belts a little bit. In the government we're all trying to find ways to reduce costs, and we just don't have the money that we've had in the past," said Jones, "and with the age of these facilities, it's costing more to maintain them. So as far as getting money, we can only do with what we have and what we get."
Inland waterways are still a major route for commercial goods. The Charleroi Locks process about 12 million tons of cargo a year. Jones said using waterways to ship goods is more cost-effective and eases wear and tear on the nation's roads.
"When these power plants send coal barges through, for every one of those barges that's 50-58 tractor trailers off the road. So if a barge is coming through and it has five barges of coal, that's approximately close to 300 tractor trailers that will be taken off the roads," he said.
Work on the Monongahela Lock and Dam 4 starts June 11th and is scheduled to take 5 days. Periodic closures will take place between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM.