Dam the delays: Congress finally moves on vital river infrastructure

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In an age when many in Congress don't want to spend more money on anything, it is big news that the Senate passed a bill this week to invest in the crumbling infrastructure of locks and dams vital to river transportation.

It is great news for the Pittsburgh region, which has 23 locks and dams that rank among the oldest in the nation. As the barges go, so to a large extent go thousands of dependent jobs and the livelihood of the area. As it is, the deterioration of the locks and dams has been described as a ticking time bomb, threatening to close river traffic at any time. The Band-Aid approach to river repairs can last only so long.

The Water Resources Development Act (S 601) will reauthorize up to $12.5 billion in water projects over the next decade. It includes elements of a bill championed by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey to improve the process in various ways.

The legislation is a work in progress, and so any celebration must be tentative. It still must go to the House, where the chairman of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair, is working on his own plan. But this is the first time in six years that either chamber has passed a reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act. That's reason to applaud.

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