Category Archives: Infrastructure

Montgmery Locks And Dams Repairs ‘Should Be Dealt With Now’

Green jobs for cleaner bulk transport

By J.D. Prose
Beaver County Times

USep 17, 2019 – POTTER TWP. — Tuesday offered beautiful weather for a tugboat ride on the Ohio River to view the Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant site, but it was a distressing situation on those same waters that concerned an influential Ohio congresswoman.

After touring the Montgomery Locks and Dam at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17, Mount Lebanon, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, expressed dismay at the crumbling condition of the 83-year-old structure.

“It’s a poster child for why Congress needs to pass an infrastructure bill and why the president needs to sign it,” said Kaptur, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chairwoman of that committee’s subcommittee on energy and water development.

“This is really serious here,” said Kaptur, noting the cracks in the locks and damn officials pointed out to her on the walking tour. “This should be dealt with now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now. Now.”

A $1.09 million project to temporarily fix the damaged middle-lock wall began about a year ago with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimating that it had a 50 percent chance of failing in the next decade if it were not addressed.

A catastrophic failure would halt all river traffic, officials warned, and would significantly damage the regional economy. With construction on Shell’s $6 billion cracker plant now in full swing, repairing the locks and dam is even more vital, Lamb said.

“Fixing the locks and dams, especially the Montgomery Locks, is one of the most import infrastructure needs of western Pennsylvania, and it’s one that we can actually do,” Lamb said. “It’s cracked concrete, and we know how to fix that.”

Lamb and Kaptur were joined on the tour by officers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mary Ann Bucci, the executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, and Matt Smith, the president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and a former Allegheny County state senator.

The group toured the locks and dam and then climbed aboard a Campbell Transportation Co. tugboat to soak in a river view of the cracker plant before returning to shore.

Smith said keeping the Ohio River navigable for goods and products is essential to the region’s success.

“It’s billions of dollars of economic development,” he said.

Part of Lamb’s job now is convincing House colleagues in leadership roles, such as Kaptur, that the region’s locks and dams must be upgraded immediately.

In an April letter to Kaptur and her subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Lamb and four colleagues — U.S. Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14, Peters Township; Mike Doyle, D-18, Forest Hills; David McKinley, R-W. Va.; and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio — asked for the “highest possible increase” in funding for the Corps of Engineers’ account for pre-construction, engineering and design.

The bipartisan group noted that the account was funded at $125 million in the 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, which is $48 million higher than the $77 million requested in the 2020 fiscal year budget.

Appropriating the highest amount would allow for the Upper Ohio Navigation Project to pursue funding. The region’s locks and dams fall under that project.

Kaptur credited Lamb with bringing photos of the Montgomery Locks’ condition to a subcommittee hearing to prove how bad the situation is there.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. We’re all very proud of America and proud of the places that we come from and when you see a cracked and degraded piece of infrastructure it makes you feel a little bit of ashamed,” Lamb said.

“That’s our responsibility as public officials … to maintain and improve that stuff so we can have a good quality of life,” he said. “I think the picture really communicates that, that we’ve let this go on for way too long and its urgent that we fix it right away.”

Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Leo W. Gerard By Leo W. Gerard

USW International President

Via USW Blog

June 9, 2017 – Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Continue reading Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Casey to White House: Action, Not Studies, Needed for Western PA Locks And Dams

 

Montgomery Locks in Beaver County

By Tom Fontaine

Tribonline

March 31, 2017 – The Army Corps of Engineers has spent more than $17 million over the past 15 years studying what to do about crumbling locks on Western Pennsylvania’s portion of the Ohio River.

Now the White House’s Office of Management and Budget wants it to spend more, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

“We don’t have time for any more studies, nor are they needed or justified,” Casey said Friday during a stop at the Emsworth Locks and Dams, about six miles downstream of Pittsburgh.

Separately, in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Casey said a proposed $2.7 billion project to build new, larger lock chambers at the Ohio River’s Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery facilities is being “unnecessarily delayed” by the office’s request for additional study and economic analysis “to determine whether the proposed project is consistent with the policy and programs of the president.”

The Office of Management and Budget did not return a message.

The three Ohio River facilities began operating between 1921 and 1936. They were built to last 50 years. Beaver County’s Montgomery is in the worst shape. Its two locks share a wall that is cracked. If the crack gets bad enough, authorities could be forced to close both locks in a move that would halt river traffic in both directions, said Col. John P. Lloyd, commander of the Army Corps’ Pittsburgh District.

“Surely, maintaining the health of this significant commercial inland waterways corridor, saving project costs and using taxpayer dollars wisely, and protecting and creating thousands of jobs are more than consistent with the president’s policies,” Casey said in his letter.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

Public Works: How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

By Dave Johnson

Campaign for America’s Future

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Dec 1, 2015 – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

Clinton’s infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in “Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today.” Here is a distillation:

● $250 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

● An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

● Spending priorities include “smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways”; “giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities’”; “building airports and air traffic control systems”; “a smart, resilient electrical grid”; “safe and reliable sources of water”; “a national freight investment program”; “upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy”; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow” and “the new energy sources that will power them.”

● A promise of “a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system.” But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton’s entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders’ Infrastructure Plan

Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.

Continue reading Public Works: How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

A Step Forward on Green Jobs, But Will the GOP Block It?

Montgomery Locks and Dam on Beaver County: Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Dan Jones said locks and dams funding on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and West Virginia will receive nearly $47.97 million based on President Barack Obama’s proposed numbers. The Montgomery Locks and Dam in Potter Township could be among those receiving funding.

Locks and dams funding increases for southwestern Pennsylvania

By David Taube

Beaver County Times

Feb 3 , 2015 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said the president’s proposed budget calls for significant increased spending on the Ohio River.

Spokesman Dan Jones said locks and dams funding on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and West Virginia will receive nearly $47.97 million based on President Barack Obama’s proposed numbers. Typically, Jones added, those figures do not change drastically from what’s approved by Congress.

That compares to a previous budget of $30.8 million, he said.

The federal government also will invest $58 million in unallocated dollars to locks and dams in western Pennsylvania, which involves funding already approved by Congress and the administration, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said in a statement Monday.

The unallocated money relates to the current 2015 federal fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. The president’s budget is for the upcoming 2016 federal fiscal year, which begins this fall.

Casey had asked federal staff for that other investment so a lower Monongahela River project could begin constructing a river chamber portion and support existing contracts, he wrote in a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

It was not immediately clear if or how that $58 million change could benefit other locks and dams projects in the state as Casey’s press office stated it would.

‘Moral Mondays’ Launched in Western PA

Protesters Rally for Officials to ‘Do the Right Thing’

People gather at the Beaver County Courthouse to raise awareness of several social and economic issues.

By Kirstin Kennedy

Beaver County Times

Oct 28, 2014 – BEAVER — Everyone knows the First Amendment gives citizens the right to assemble. Few regularly exercise it.

But that wasn’t the case Monday evening on the steps of the Beaver County Courthouse, when over 30 people gathered with signs and chants.

Willie Sallis, president of the NAACP in Beaver County, said he helped to gather the protest to pressure elected officials to "just do the right thing."

"What is the moral thing to do? … That’s what we’re trying to keep alive with the union and the civil rights leaders," he said. Sallis paired with several other organizations — including members of local labor unions — for the rally, with the hope of raising awareness of several social and economic issues.

Inspired by a recent lecture given locally by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Sallis dubbed the rally Moral Monday.

"What’s the right thing to do for the poor?" Sallis said. "What’s the right thing to do for health benefits? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to jobs? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to minimum wages? All we’re saying is, ‘Look, do the right thing.’"

On the courthouse lawn, participants chanted, "Keep it fair; we care."

Continue reading ‘Moral Mondays’ Launched in Western PA

Time to Narrow the Target: It’s Not ‘Washington,’ It’s Rightwing Republicans

Ideology and Investment

By Paul Krugman
New York Times Opinion

Oct 26, 2014 – America used to be a country that built for the future. Sometimes the government built directly: Public projects, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, provided the backbone for economic growth. Sometimes it provided incentives to the private sector, like land grants to spur railroad construction. Either way, there was broad support for spending that would make us richer.

But nowadays we simply won’t invest, even when the need is obvious and the timing couldn’t be better. And don’t tell me that the problem is “political dysfunction” or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest doesn’t reflect something wrong with “Washington”; it reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party.

Some background: More than seven years have passed since the housing bubble burst, and ever since, America has been awash in savings — or more accurately, desired savings — with nowhere to go. Borrowing to buy homes has recovered a bit, but remains low. Corporations are earning huge profits, but are reluctant to invest in the face of weak consumer demand, so they’re accumulating cash or buying back their own stock. Banks are holding almost $2.7 trillion in excess reserves — funds they could lend out, but choose instead to leave idle.

And the mismatch between desired saving and the willingness to invest has kept the economy depressed. Remember, your spending is my income and my spending is your income, so if everyone tries to spend less at the same time, everyone’s income falls.

Continue reading Time to Narrow the Target: It’s Not ‘Washington,’ It’s Rightwing Republicans