The Lock and Dam Choke Point

The Lock and Dam Choke Point
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From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

When the massive Bonneville lock cracked last fall on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, shipments of grain, logs and other freight bottlenecked as crews hustled to save the deteriorating structure from total failure. 

Farmers in the middle of the wheat harvest and others who rely on the Columbia to ship goods as far as Asia endured crippling delays until the lock reopened a month later. 

Because many other decaying locks and dams also are at risk of failure that could choke the nation’s commerce, only a major infrastructure investment can keep America’s inland waterways open.

Most U.S. locks and dams are well beyond their 50-year design life, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates necessary upgrades to inland waterways will cost $4.9 billion.

Importantly, investments in lock and dam infrastructure would increase the nation’s capacity to export goods. In 2017, nearly half of all vessels on American inland waterways experienced lock delays, with the average delay more than doubling from 64 minutes in 2000 to 143 minutes in 2015. 

In a testimony on trade earlier this year, USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown stressed that the nation’s inland waterways are essential trade routes that congressional leaders must act quickly to upgrade. 

“Our member employers have highlighted port and lock infrastructure upgrades as an item that could not only help them get goods to market, but also significantly reduce costs,” said Brown. 

An infrastructure investment with strong Buy American provisions would improve shipping efficiency and increase demand for domestically-produced steel and other manufactured goods, fueling good, family-sustaining jobs for decades to come. 


Posted In: Union Matters

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