Three Rivers Locks & Dams in Need of Repair

Jan 16, 2012

The head of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission said massive infrastructure upgrades are needed for the Three Rivers' locks and dams.

In an appeal for funding made to the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee last week, Port Commission Executive Director James McCarville said each river has its own problems.

"The Lower Mon will need about $100 million a year for the next ten years. That project is already eight years behind," said McCarville. "The Ohio River needs an authorization through Congress so we can address the problems there. The Allegheny River, they have begun effectively to close Locks 8 and 9," and Locks 5, 6, and 7 won't be repaired, if damaged.

McCarville said the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the 17 locks and dams in the port system a report card with three F's, seven D's, five C's, and two B's — a combined "grade point average" of just 1.35.

"We have the oldest and most vulnerable navigation infrastructure in the nation," said McCarville. "We suffer twice the national average in unscheduled outages." He said outages will likely happen even more often when funding cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers maintenance program take effect.

He called on the legislature and the governor to restore state funding to the port system. The budget line item for the Port of Pittsburgh completely vanished from 2010 to 2011, leaving the port bereft of $738,000.

McCarville said the port now gets about half its funding from the federal government, and half from levies on businesses. In addition to asking for direct state aid, he asked legislators to support a proposal that would set up a $12-24 million yearly fund for "intermodal" transportation projects.

According to McCarville, the port directly sustains 45,000 jobs and indirectly supports 155,000 jobs, generating about $1 billion in state and local tax revenue each year. He said the region's steel, coal, and chemical industries rely heavily on the rivers to do business.