The Quest to Improve our Infrastructure


By Evan Ogrodnik

In Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, manufacturers rely heavily on the region’s waterways in a variety of ways; from the transportation of coal to produce the energy that powers the plants and factories, to the receipt of raw materials used in the manufacturing process and eventually to the shipment of finished goods, both to U.S. consumers and those abroad.

Recently, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill which, in part, is geared towards repairing and improving our country’s inland waterways infrastructure. On May 15, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 83-14 in support of the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA), authorizing over $12 billion in funds for various projects for water resources development, conservation and other purposes.

The impact of this legislation on Western Pennsylvania could be very meaningful given the current state of our region’s lock and dam systems. It is widely known that the condition of the 23 locks and dams in our region are near failure, have outlasted their estimated life expectancy, and are overdue for significant repair. It was noted recently by the National Association of Manufacturers that there are an average of 52 service disruptions per day across the country’s inland waterways system due to the aging infrastructure, giving rise to increased transportation costs, delays in delivery and ultimately making U.S. manufacturers less competitive in the global marketplace.

In addition the Senate passed an amendment to the WRDA (amendment #866, the Merkley-Brown Amendment) to extend “Buy America” provisions to these various projects, whereby all federal taxpayer dollars used to fund these projects will be spent on materials and goods produced in America. This funding would of course help to bolster U.S. employment, with an estimated 500,000 jobs for all designated projects.

We will continue to monitor the progress of this potentially significant legislation to Western Pennsylvania.

This Insight article references information used in the article“Senate passes bill authorizing money for locks and dams” by Tracie Mauriello of the Post-Gazette Washington Bureau.

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