Carnegie Mellon University
July 08, 2015

Healthy Waterways – Hendrickson Leads Experts in Study of Locks and Dams

Healthy Waterways – Hendrickson Leads Experts in Study of Locks and Dams

TRB Committee (L to R): B. Starr McMullen, Chris Hendrickson, Melissa Welch-Ross, Leigh Boske, Michael Bronzini, James Corbett, Steven Godwin, Leonard Shabman, Edward Dickey, Thomas WakemanTRB Committee (L to R): B. Starr McMullen, Chris Hendrickson, Melissa Welch-Ross, Leigh Boske, Michael Bronzini, James Corbett, Steven Godwin, Leonard Shabman, Edward Dickey, Thomas Wakeman

Hamerschlag University Professor Emeritus Chris Hendrickson led a committee of experts and industry leaders tasked with assessing the condition of the inland waterway transportation network. The culmination of the committee’s recently released 18-month consensus study, is a special report for policy makers, TRB Special Report 315: Funding and Managing the U.S. Inland Waterways System: What Policy Makers Need to Know. The report is intended to inform policy makers how this small yet necessary component of the national freight system is managed and maintained, and how future policy would best benefit and preserve it.

In selecting CMU to host this study, Hendrickson says the Transportation Research Board (TRB) chose the perfect setting in which to observe and evaluate our nation’s inland waterway system. The committee was able to visit the Emsworth Lock on the Ohio River, to gain first hand experience about how the inland waterway commercial freight traffic actually works.

“You see railways all the time, people use airports, but many people never use or even see the locks and dams,” says Hendrickson. “They are a vital, but often overlooked, part of our nation’s infrastructure.”

In the report, Hendrickson and his fellow TRB committee members call for a sustainable and well-executed plan for maintaining system reliability and performance that would encourage more efficient use of limited navigation resources. They propose greater reliance on a “user-pays” funding strategy for commercial navigation of the system, and recommend that most of that funding be allocated towards system preservation, rather than reconstruction.

“Freight transportation is really important, and it’s important to keep it working,” says Hendrickson. “We need some good policies in place to preserve the dams and locks that make navigating this system possible.” He is optimistic that the report will have an influence on the future policies congress will approve to maintain this system.