Funding for road may help fix dam in Crescent

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Funding for reopening a washed out Crescent road that has prevented the Army Corps of Engineers from fixing an unstable Ohio River lock could be on the way.

The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County is scheduled to consider today providing a $200,000 grant for repairing McCutcheon Way, which has been closed since rains washed out a portion of the road in May 2011.

The closure forced the Corps to cancel a $3.1 million contract awarded last year to repair its Dashields Lock, located at the end of McCutcheon Way, because needed construction equipment could not get through.

Crescent did not have the money to repair the road and has been unable to get local, state or federal funds. The idea to fund the project through a county infrastructure fund financed by state gaming money came up in June when county Executive Rich Fitzgerald met with township officials.

Bob Hurley, the county's deputy director for economic development, said the $200,000 would cover most of the $275,000 estimated cost of reopening the road. Crescent already has spent some of the remaining $75,000 on engineering studies, said Bill Cook, president of Crescent's board of supervisors. The Port of Pittsburgh Commission also provided $5,000.

Mr. Cook said if the grant is approved, the project could be completed between March and May, depending on winter weather. That also would allow the township to reopen a park that has been off limits since McCutcheon was closed.

"We're anxious to get this moving as soon as we can," Mr. Cook said.

Corps officials, facing budget cuts to maintain and repair an aging, debilitated series of locks and dams, say they would not be able to start work on the lock right away.

The funding shortfall jeopardizes a system of locks and dams that is an economic engine in Pittsburgh and nationwide.

Faced with deadlock at McCutcheon Way, Corps officials moved money for repairing Dashields Lock down river to the Montgomery Lock and Dam near Shippingport, where they are replacing debilitated dam gates that control the flow of river water.

In the meantime, if the wall at the Dashields Lock tumbles into the Ohio, that could close the river to barges that carry coal and other commodities up and down the waterway.

The goods would have to be moved by truck or rail, increasing traffic congestion and raising costs for shippers and consumers, Corps and industry officials say.

Corps spokesman Dan Jones said the agency will not be able to request new money for the Dashields Lock repairs until it submits a proposed budget for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2015. The Corps could use emergency funds to make the repairs before then, but probably would not request them until the McCutcheon Way project is completed, he said.

businessnews - neigh_west

Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.


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