Looking to The Private Sector to Modernize Inland Waterways

America’s inland waterways are the hidden backbone of the freight network, carrying the equivalent of about 51 million truck trips each year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has responsibility over the inland waterway system, but lacks the necessary funding to finish the backlog of projects in its queue. Deferred maintenance has led to a high number of unscheduled lock closures and delays for barges moving imports and exports to market.

Recent federal legislation authorized a new pilot program that is hoping to leverage public-private partnerships (P3s) to move forward with projects more quickly. The assets would be leased to the private sector but would remain the property of the federal government, and operations and maintenance would remain under the oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tapping private sector capital and expertise has the potential to greatly improve the maintenance and repair of these aging yet critical assets for our freight network.