Report offers strategies to maintain aging U.S. waterways

A report on a study recently commissioned by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) details what would be needed to maintain aging inland waterways in the U.S., Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) said on Wednesday.

The report, "Funding and Managing the U.S. Inland Waterways System: What Policy Makers Need to Know," indicated that funding mechanisms and maintenance have been inadequate and that this is apparent in locks and dams, Jim Kruse , a researcher on the study team and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's director of the Center for Ports and Waterways, said.
 
AED said many of the locks in waterways were built and designed early in the 20th century. Currently, these are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and up until recently, maintenance had been based on an individual, case-by-case basis. The report said efforts are being made to treat the system as a whole, rather than as multiple parts.

“The bottom line was that as a group, we felt that the funding was not adequate and needed to be increased, but it needs to be increased intelligently, with a focus on maintenance and reliability first and improvements later because the system is getting old, and failures are going to start happening if nothing’s done," Kruse said.

The report concluded that waterway-freight systems are a priority for funding to address issues of reliability and performance. It also said a user-payment approach would be feasible to provide the necessary revenue needed to maintain the system. The report  concluded that regular maintenance would play a larger role, rather than a case-by-case  lock-replacement approach.

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