While there will be a lot of fighting about the highway trust fund – a fund that is projected to go bankrupt next year as politicians use it to bankroll mass transit systems and other non-highway projects – unfortunately, there has been little talk about funding urgently-needed work on domestic waterways. In the US, $216 Billion of commodities like agricultural products, coal, oil, and cement travel over 12,000 miles of navigable waterways and through 242 locks each year. A recent expose by Business Week tells how dire the situation is:
- Designed to last 50 years – many locks are 70-80 years old
- The newest lock was opened in 1960 (doing the math) – 55 years ago
- Like the Panama Canal, many locks are too small for today’s large barge tows
- Current budgets only fund “band aid" maintenance
Our US farmers are in jeopardy of losing market share in, for example, the Chinese market, as countries like Brazil show they can less expensively produce and, more importantly, transport commodities via their modern river transportation systems.
If you want to see footage of the wall of the Lockport lock collapse click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gk8OH1-e0o