Speaker: U.S. needs to be “smart” about infrastructure investment | News
QUINCY — Patricia Pietravalle says the state of U.S. infrastructure is better than a year ago.
“What we’ve had is so much pent-up need for infrastructure investment,” said Pietravalle, senior director of Strategic Infrastructure Performance Institute in Washington, D.C. “The passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021 is a positive step, but it’s not enough. I don’t mean we need to run up our national debt with more spending. What I mean is being smart about that investment, bringing in the private sector.”
Pietravalle provided the luncheon keynote Friday afternoon as the Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association wrapped up its annual meeting in Quincy.
Infrastructure projects, including those on inland waterways, also need to be “smart” to optimize technology moving forward into what she called the fourth industrial revolution leading to smart infrastructure and smart cities.
“The Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers, these water systems, are so much the central nervous system of our economy, our supply chain,” Pietravalle said.
Infrastructure projects, and funding for them, was a common theme as UMIMRA, Corn Belt Ports and Corn Belt Association of Waterborne Commerce members gathered to listen to a full slate of speakers touching on topics ranging from a federal update on water-related legislation and regulation to the weather outlook and district updates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We know our nation has fallen behind on some important structures — bridges, locks and dams. Particularly now with supply shortages and the price of food, it’s important to get transportation systems in place and efficient,” UMIMRA Chairman Mike Klingner said.
But stakeholder efforts over many years to support the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program are generating results.
“We are actually able to construct projects now. Before it was design and study. Now it’s making improvements important to everybody in the Upper Mississippi Basin,” NESP program manager Andrew Goodall said.
Initial construction begins in spring 2023 on a new 1,200-foot chamber at Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield, Mo., Goodall said, with construction expected to begin in two or three years on an environmental project, a fish passage, at Lock and Dam 22.
“NESP is unique. It has the collective support among the navigation industry and the ecosystem partnership” with projects planned in each area, Goodall said. “This is a tremendous start for NESP, but there are continual appropriations required to be successful long-term for the program and, ultimately, the upper Mississippi River,” Goodall said.
Klingner said partnering with the navigation industry and Corn Belt ports will be key to maintain $200 million per year in NESP funding for additional projects.
With consistent funding, “we should be able to complete all locks and dams within 15 years,” Klingner said. “They were all originally built in the ‘30s in seven years. We ought to be able to modify them and have 1,200 foot locks built.”
Long-range goals for the organization include developing a comprehensive flood control plan for the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers within the next 12 years, Klingner said, and working toward improvements by recognizing the change in climate — significant increases in rainfall intensity, frequency and volume of water.
“We’ve got to keep working on it,” Klingner said. “It’s just been too slow. In today’s world, we ought to be able to move faster than this.”