Opportunities for Large Savings by Altering Some Inland Waterway Operations

CED-78-12: Published: Dec 12, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 1977.

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Many federal, state, and private drawbridges or locks are operated 24 hours a day despite little or no boat traffic during predictable periods. The U.S. Coast Guard regulates operations of drawbridges along navigable waterways, and the Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains some inland waterway routes and owns and operates some bridges and locks. In many instances the cost to maintain unobstructed navigation at all time is enormous, and considerable savings could be realized with little impact on navigation if such services were reduced or eliminated.

Reducing drawbridge operations when justified by traffic patterns could save millions of dollars. In Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, 62% of the bridges analyzed were manned 24-hours a day, although 45% had less than one boat in an 8-hour period. The costs and other maintenance problems associated with the Dismal Swamp Canal outweigh its benefits. The current annual cost of keeping the canal open is $435,000.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Corps of Engineers to: analyze vessel usage of its bridges and locks, consult with users as to their ability to adjust to new operating hours, consider various alternatives for reducing hours and costs, and request Coast Guard approval for adjusting operations where the savings from reducing such operations are more than the benefits of operating continually. The Corps of Engineers should also: determine whether States or local communities would assume the costs to maintain the Dismal Swamp Canal for through navigation, hold meetings to obtain public views regarding closure of the canal, and determine the environmental impacts of such closure. The Secretary of Transportation should require the Coast Guard to develop and disseminate to drawbridge owners criteria for evaluating requests for reducing bridge operating hours during periods of low vessel usage.

    Agency Affected:


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