Toohey reiterated a request WCI made last month to Congress to change the current 50/50 cost share to 75% from general revenue and 25% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), which would match the cost sharing set up in the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 for deep draft ports.
“The Inland Waterway Trust Fund has been a major beneficiary of those policy and revenue changes going from basically what O&B requested back in 2012 and 2013 to ramping up as the new revenues were received into the trust fund account and the new cost sharing took effect to sustaining pretty much a $400 million construction program, which allowed us to build out five projects and we’ll bring them online by 2023, 2024 versus the 2065 and even 2090 projection before these changes were made in funding and policy,” Toohey said.
The Olmsted Locks project was delivered in August, four years ahead of schedule and $330 million under budget. The LaGrange major rehabilitation project is scheduled for completion in 2020, the Kentucky Lock and Chickamauga Lock in 2023 and the Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 by 2024, Toohey said.
The IWTF returned to a 50/50 cost share following the completion of the Olmsted project, which dropped its annual funding to $329.9 million in 2019, down nearly $70 million from its 2018 funding.
Toohey said under a 50/50 cost share, six projects would be funded to completion in 10 years, 13 would be funded to completion in 20 years and 12 projects would not be completed after 20 years. Under a 75/25 cost share, he said, 13 projects would be funded to completion in 10 years and all 25 projects would be funded to competition in 20 years.
“Either one of those options would sustain a $400 million investment portfolio,” he said.
WCI’s next projects include seven 1,200-foot locks on the upper Mississippi River locks 20 to 25 and the Illinois Waterway’s LaGrange and Peoria locks.
“This should be in our judgment the poster child of the Corps of Engineer program because Congress combined not only infrastructure investment, the navigation mission, with the ecosystem restoration mission of the Corps of Engineers — $1 billion of investment for over 300 projects for ecosystem restoration on upper Mississippi River and Illinois River,” Toohey said. “That would be combined with roughly $2 billion of investment in these new locks.”
WCI’s upcoming projects also include three 600-foot locks on the Ohio River at Emsworth Dashields and Montgomery in western Pennsylvania, investment in the industrial lock replacement at Louisiana’s Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the Three Rivers Project in Arkansas.
“Our analysis is that any public-private partnership that is toll-based and only puts the toll on one beneficiary — the commercial use of the waterways — would drive traffic off the waterways and onto rail and truck and the hordes of alternative modes,” Toohey said.
One 15-barge tow is equivalent to 216 rail cars or 1,050 large semi tractor-trailers, he said. Barges also can move 1 ton of cargo 647 miles per gallon of fuel — compared to 477 miles for rail and 145 miles for trucks — and generate 15.6 tons of CO2 per million ton-miles compared to the 21.2 tons by rail and 154.2 tons by truck.
“Our goal as always is to be sure that river is not the silent ‘R’ in transportation and that policymakers don’t just focus on roads, rail and runways,” Toohey said.