Army spokesman can’t confirm Montgomery locks project on Trump’s radar

Beaver County Times

Jan. 26–The Pittsburgh office of the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it could not validate or confirm a report that listed the Montgomery Locks and Dam in Industry as a high-priority infrastructure project for new President Donald Trump.

A list surfaced earlier this week that purported to show the top 50 infrastructure projects favored by Trump. The list contained projects across the country totaling more than $137.5 billion in infrastructure improvements.

The list, first published by the Kansas City Star, has not been verified by the White House.

Despite that, the Upper Ohio Navigation Project — which includes massive upgrades and renovations to locks and dams at Montgomery, as well as Emsworth and Dashields in Allegheny County — appeared near the bottom of that list as a priority.

Jeff Hawk, a public affairs officer with the Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh, said Thursday the agency hasn’t been in contact with anyone from the Trump administration and couldn’t confirm anything about the list.

However, he noted a dire need for repairs at the lock and dam facilities on the Ohio River, especially because Montgomery, Emsworth and Dashields are the three oldest and smallest locks on the entire Ohio River system. Of those, Montgomery is in the most urgent need of repairs.

“As far as Montgomery, it’s probably our lock of most concern because it has a vertical crack that runs the length of the middle wall, and it’s threatening to destabilize that wall,” Hawk said. “If that wall were to fail, it would impact both chambers … and it would shut down all navigation on the Ohio River until we’re able to put rather extensive repairs into place.”

It’s a good thing, Hawk said, that Congress recently authorized funding to be released for the three locks projects, which are expected to cost $2.6 billion. Despite that authorization, no funding has been released, and Hawk said he doesn’t know when it might be.

The Corps of Engineers doesn’t even have its own budget for this year, and “zero dollars” have been allocated from the Trump administration, Hawk said.

The renovation project would include installation of a new lock chamber to be 110 feet wide and 600 feet long. Other improvements would be made in the area to accommodate updated infrastructure.

According to Army Corps estimates, failure to complete renovations and upgrades at Montgomery could cost the region $430 million annually, since 300 commercial barges and boats use Montgomery every month.

Failure to improve any of the three lock and dam facilities could cost the region $1.29 billion annually, the Army Corps previously said in a report.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.