Sunday, August 14, 2011


The Olmstead Locks and Dam at the far lower end of the Ohio River was supposed to complete the replacement of the old lock and dam system that was completed in 1929. Only two of those old dams are left -- 52 between Paducah and Metropolis,  and 53 about 24 miles below Paducah. Locks 52 and 53 received new, "temporary" 1,200-foot locks in the 1970s, with the idea the two dams were to be replaced by Olmstead. The first of the new system of locks and dams on the Ohio River became operational in the late 1950s. The most recent was the Smithland Locks and Dam, which was finished in 1980. Around 1990 or so, new locks were completed at what is now Robert C. Byrd.

Now it looks like Olmstead is running into significant cost overruns beyond its $2.1 billion price tag.

So 52 and 53 are operating beyond their replacement times. At the other end of the river, the Montgomery Locks and Dam has problems that could eventually lead to failure of the dam and loss of the navigation pool. In the present climate, where will money come from for these projects? Throw in that most people are would probably spend $3 billion or $4 billion replacing overworked highway bridges at Cincinnati and Louisville.

That's right, billions for big bridges. That's what they cost now.

And what about all those cities along the river that need to separate their sanitary and storm sewers?

Lots of needs and not a whole lot of money available. I'm guessing bridge tolls, higher river user fees and higher local utility costs are in the future. But I've been wrong before. That's why he's Bill Gates and I'm not.

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