Alton #3 06/13/76

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Alton #3 06/13/76 - ALTON The Alton Locks Continued from Page One...
ALTON The Alton Locks Continued from Page One lapsing. Corps officials In St. Louis say the lock and dam can be rehabilitated. But they say the cost would be almost as high as building a new facility This estimate Is seriously disputed by opponent* opponent* and by some transportation officials officials In Washington. An important question In tfie dispute is whether the present lock creates such a serious bottleneck on the river that its replacement as soon as possible Is warranted. Is it necessary, ask opponents among the railroads, environmentalists and some members of Congress, for the public to spend 1400 million so that the barge industry can more conveniently ! and cheaply move its equipment? "That's what it really boils down to," acknowledges James Lightsey, director of river transportation for the Iowa Department of Transportation, a strong backer of the proposed new lock. "The whole system does a favor" The questions over capacity of the eiisting lock will be the first aspect of this multi-faceted issue-to be examined by The Register. Subsequently, The Register will publish publish articles dealing with the physical condition of the existing facility; with the relationship between the Corps of Engineers and the river transportation industry, with the methods used by the Corps to justify financially the construction construction of new facilities, and with the squabble over whether the Corps intends a new lock at Alton_to be just the beginning of a chain of-such projects projects on the Upper Mississippi. Pay Nothing Operators of the 15 Agri-Trans^ barges that were moved upstream through the lock paid nothing to the! Corps of Engineers for this service.' Barge operators pay nothing to cover! toe-costs related to the-lock and-dam; systems on the inland waterways^- | the maintenance of the structures" themselves, the expense of constant dredging to keep the river channel deep enough, the salaries of the federal iloyes who operate the facilities. These costs are borne by the-general4 public/Questions involving this policy i also will be explored later. i Joseph Carroll, professor of business I administration and head of the Penh-! sylvania University Transportation! Institute, is a nationally recognized expert on public investment in trans- i portation facilities. i In the past, he has worked for the : Corps of Engineers. He's now -serving as a consultant to the Western Railroad ! Association, which is fighting the plan ; to replace Lock and Dam 26. j "What the Corps is trying to do," Carroll said in an interview in Chicago the lock in the same time that a single 15-barge tow now is being served. Higher Costs Bui iiTdf <Jer to use Lock 28 this way, the barge industry would have to buy many "new tow boats and the tows would be^smaller. Labor costs would increase because more deck hands and pilots would be needed. The barge industry's rates could be forced up and its competitors, the railroads, might siphon off some of the traffic. There is little question that delays at Alton, which now are causing a rising chorus of complaints, will Increase. But the Corps of Engineers has detailed reports by private consultants who have employed sophisticated computer computer techniques to show that the lock here could handle at least 76 million tons of traffic each year, and possibly as much as 93 million tons. To reach this level, the tows would have to arrive at the lock ready to serve, to move through in what is called a single lockage. Thus, if the barge irfdustry arid river shippers were to conform their tows to the lock here at Alton, the existing faci; lily could be expected to handle cargo levels that some U.S.-Department of Transportation (DOTT«perts say may not be required until almost the turn of the century.- And any excess then could easily be moved by rail, they say. And that's not the end of the argument. argument. Industry officials say there's a big difference between a stated lock capacity of, say, 93 million tons, as indicated in some studies, and "practical" "practical" capacity. A Telephone Booth "A telephone booth for practical purposes purposes holds one person," said Jack Lambert, president of.Twin Cities Barge and Towing Co. at St. Paul, -Minnr^But a bunch of college kids-can cram 16 people into a phone .booth in order ~r<T"get into""th~e~recofd book. That's the theoretical capacity." Lambert continued: "You can do the same thing at O'Hare Airport in C'hica^ Lock J6, an average of 34 per cent of the total tow-proeessing-Ume Is devoted devoted to those functions for which the lock was designed - "namely to assist vessels vessels in changing levels;,' the PMM report says. The lock Is idle 66 per cent of The time, awaiting the approach, entry and exit of barges from the chamber. Corps records indicate the barge industry regularly uses tow arrangements that are most inefficient for handling at Lock 26. Data from 1973 and 1974 indicate that 55.3 per cent of the tows arriving at Lock 26 were what's called "straight doubles": tows that had to be moved through the facility in two separate operations. It is this procedure that can take up to two hours and 15 minutes to move a standard 15-barge tow through the lock. "Straight singles," in which the barges and power boat could be processed processed through the lock in a single operation, operation, comprised 17.9 per cent of the tows arriving at Lock 26 in those years, records show. The straight doubles (55.3 per cent of the tows) took up 74.1 per cent of the lock's time. The PMM report states: "The greatest greatest opportunities for reducing tow processing time are in those operations which are under the control of the inland navigation industry — namely the approach, entry and exit of tows." DOT Study The U.S. Department of Transportation Transportation has concluded in a report to Congress Congress that "the growth represented in the most probable traffic projections ! (for the Mississippi and Illinois waterways) waterways) does not exceed the capacity of | the present Lock and Dam 26 and the railroads, given modest additional i investment in the railroads." —The DOT agrees-the-present-facility- here is in a state of deterioration and ! some engineering action is required to : maintain it. I The Corps of Engineers and the i inland navigation industry originally go. You could land three times as many planes,.but people_don!t fly at 3 a.m." He said studies indicating capacity at Lock 26 could be 93 million tons a year "depend on having an infinite queue of barges waiting to be served. "You have to assume that grain and fuel oil shipments will be spaced out evenly throughout the shipping season. It doesn't work out that way." Fuel oil shipments are heavy when it's needed for heating, Lambert said, and grain movement is heaviest in the spring and late summer and-fall.^ The Corps last July received aTepoTF from Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. (PMM), which it had commissioned to wanted to replace the present 600-foot- long lock here with two 1,200-foot locks. ~~:" m Now, the Corps' board of engineers in Washington has recommended that a single 1,200-foot lock be built near Alton, and that provision be made for adding a second one later. The barge and towing industries, as well as grain, steel, oil and other companies heavily involved in .recently, "is to minimize the costs to the barge people. These are the people who are the constituency of the Corps." In a 1874 study presented to the Society of Naval Architects, Carroll and an associate said that one reason the river locks are congested is the "absense of any mechanism for ensuring ensuring that (barge) operators take into account the impact of their actions upon others." The study continued: "It might be said that lock capacity, an increasingly scarce resource, is being used frivolously. frivolously. Too much of it is devoted to accommodating oversized or underpowered underpowered tows and empty barges." If the Agri-Trans tow had approached Lock 26 "ready to serve" — a maximum of eight barges plus the power boat — the operation would have taken about 35 minutes, according to personnel at the lock. This would be the ideal configuration (or Lock 26 and would permit its use to maximum capacity. With this system, according to internal Corps studies, up to 32 barges could be moved through study ways to increase the capacity of Lock 26. The report, which was obtained by The Register, says major improvements improvements are possible, but that these will require the barge and towing industry to make changes in operating procedures. procedures. Under current operating methods at river transportation, are especially anxious to replace Lock 26 because the facility just downstream, No. 27, near 'St. LbulV,Ts~l,200 feet long and can easily easily accommodate high volumes of barge traffic without forcing the barge lines to change their operating methods. methods. Traffic Rise Seen But the DOT contends that even if Lock 26 is replaced with a 1,200-foot facility, this would allow such an Continued on next page

Clipped from
  1. The Des Moines Register,
  2. 13 Jun 1976, Sun,
  3. Page 15

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