To prevent occasional barge transport delays at locks, the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed constructing new and enlarged navigation locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway. In addition to reducing barge congestion during high-traffic periods, the Corps projects that the seven new longer locks would prepare the waterways for an increase in barge transportation, though barge traffic has generally decreased in recent years.
In 2000, the U.S. Army Inspector General found that Corps economists had exaggerated the demand for future barge traffic on the waterway. The plan to build the new locks has also been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences, which has suggested that the Corps should pursue cheaper measures like scheduling, tradable lockage fees, and helper boats. These alternative solutions could improve the efficiency of the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway at a fraction of the project’s cost.« Back to Database