Montgomery Locks project to be completed with $857 million federal boostView Source
Chrissy Suttles, Beaver County Times
·4 min read
INDUSTRY — Engineers will complete a yearslong venture to restore the aging Montgomery Locks in Beaver County thanks to a new round of federal funding.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17, on Wednesday said the Pittsburgh U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive more than $857 million of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package for its Upper Ohio Navigation project.
The $2.6 billion plan involves replacing and expanding chambers at the Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery locks and dams along the Ohio River.
“If this system were to break down, the economy of a large segment of America would be adversely impacted because of the failure to move commodities through the waterway system,” Casey said.
The "unprecedented" funding will be used to complete work on Industry’s Montgomery Locks, built in the 1930s and now exhibiting significant deterioration. A catastrophic failure at the site would halt river traffic and likely hamper work at Shell’s ethane cracker plant nearby. The system has a 50% chance of failure by 2028 and an average of 300 commercial lockages each month.
Mary Ann Bucci, Port of Pittsburgh Commission executive director, said there’s already a crack that leaks water between the two walls of Montgomery's chambers.
“If that wall collapses, both chambers would be non-functional and you close the Port of Pittsburgh,” she said, adding this would completely shut down regional commerce and may affect municipal drinking water.
The Upper Ohio River locks are estimated to facilitate the transport of 15 to 20 million tons of commodities annually in the next 50 years.
“(This funding) means we can put that out to bid all at one time and keep the project moving forward,” Bucci said. “Unlike the Lower Mon Project, which went piece by piece, year by year with whatever dollars we got. We end up in year 28 of a 10-year project. That will not happen at the Montgomery Locks and Dam.”
Now that Montgomery is fully funded, Bucci said Emsworth is the next priority with Dashields not far behind. Regionally, transportation through Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery is expected to support 3,800 full-time jobs annually.
“It’s not just investment in Montgomery...but a reinventing of the portal to Pittsburgh,” said Darrin Kelly, Allegheny County Labor Council president. “Not just what’s coming out, it’s what coming back in...This will allow larger ships to come through.”
Lamb said Wednesday's news “builds on years of bipartisan work and progress” to secure funding for the system.
“River traffic is something few people think about unless it is shut down,” he said, adding that if Montgomery were to collapse “we could lose thousands of jobs and add thousands of trucks to our roads, meaning more pollution and traffic.”
“This funding is essential and the result of years of advocacy and old-fashioned, hard legislative work,” he said.
What we can expect from the infrastructure law
Pennsylvania is slated to receive roughly $18 billion from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending deal passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in November. With the option to apply for additional funds, the state could see as much as $50 billion in the coming years.
Although the money may take some time to travel to local communities, funding can be used to improve roads, bridges, public transit and drinking water. This includes $11.3 billion for highway projects, $1.6 billion for bridge repairs and $4.2 billion for public transit and water systems over five years.
The $1.4 billion to improve water infrastructure, such as replacing lead pipes, may be welcome news to thousands of Beaver County residents who frequently deal with line breaks, century-old cast iron and lead pipes and rising water prices.
Pennsylvania was recently awarded its first $240 million from the package; Gov. Tom Wolf has prioritized lead remediation and reducing contaminants like “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in drinking water.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration already awarded its first round of $70.7 million to Pennsylvania’s 62 airports, including more than $11 million to Pittsburgh International Airport and $295,000 to Beaver County Airport for investments in runways, taxiways, safety, terminals and roadways.
Chrissy Suttles covers business, energy and environment for the Beaver County Times and the USAToday Network. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @ChrissySuttles.
This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Montgomery Locks project to be completed with federal boost