U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) came to Pittsburgh to announce the Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act of 2013, known as the RIVER Act, to address the ongoing crisis in maintaining the locks and dams so crucial to the Port of Pittsburgh, the nation's second largest inland river port.
River commerce in the region employs 45,000 people directly and 200,000 total, according to Casey. He said the failure to maintain locks and dams is part of a larger problem.
"We have not invested in infrastructure in a meaningful and serious way in many, many years. I'm hopeful, though, because I think there is a bipartisan concern about the lack of investment, and maybe even more so on an issue like this because it isn't just about southwestern Pennsylvania--there are plenty of other places in the country affected by this."
Project management would be reformed to ensure cost estimates are not exceeded and work schedules are kept.
Mike Toohey, President and CEO of the Waterways Council, said it now takes more than thirty years to deliver a Corps of Engineers project, while it used to take four.
The bill would increase waterway user fees from 20 cents to 29 cents per gallon of diesel fuel to provide an additional revenue stream for the federal government's investment in waterways projects.
Asked to comment on what effect sequestration would have on the Pittsburgh region, Sen. Casey said it would devastate the state and the country and must be avoided.