Share This Page

Mon River project to get boost, according to Army Corps of Engineers

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 11:39 p.m.

A critical Monongahela River project that is 10 years behind schedule got a $74.7 million bump in funding on Tuesday that planners say will help speed the completion.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced the funds for the Lower Monongahela River project, which supporters say is critical for the region.

“We've been actively working on this issue. This is a very positive development. There's just horrendous deterioration of these structures and they're at risk of failure,” said Peter Stephaich, chairman and CEO of Campbell Transportation Co. in Houston, Washington County. “If they're going to keep that river open, they need to replace them.”

The corps had expected to finish the Lower Monongahela River project within 10 years when work began in 1994 on what was then a $750 million project to remove the locks and dam in Elizabeth, replace a dam in Braddock and build locks in Charleroi. Funding shortfalls and delays postponed the projected completion date to at least 2025.

The Braddock dam replacement has been completed and about $1 billion more is needed to finish the project, according to the corps. Corps data show the project has received $108.5 million over the past five years.

The funding announced on Tuesday will pay for replacement of a piece of the lock at Charleroi, said Jeanine Hoey, chief of programs and project management for the corps' Pittsburgh District.

“It's the smallest piece we could break off that would further construction,” Hoey said. “It will cut three years off the total duration than if we had to wait for Olmsted to get completed.”

The Lower Mon project is behind a higher priority, $3 billion project to build a dam and locks along the Ohio River near Olmsted, Ill. A one-time change in the funding calculation this year freed up money for the Lower Mon project.

Jim McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, said while much more money is needed, every dollar is important.

“This is funding we haven't seen in five years,” McCarville said. “The lock and dam at Elizabeth are over 100 years old. These are very, very old facilities desperately in need of modernization.”

Barges carried 54.7 million tons of cargo through Monongahela River locks in 2012, up 11 percent from 2011, corps data show.

Many locks and dams in the Pittsburgh area were built in the 1930s or earlier, including the Elizabeth dam, which was built in 1907.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.