Our region’s waterways – chief among them the Mississippi and Illinois rivers – are absolutely critical to the economic well-being of our area. But the infrastructure of these rivers is in serious need of improvement.
Many of the locks and dams required for the safe and efficient passage of goods and products on these rivers were built during the Roosevelt Administration – almost 80 years ago.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing the best it can, but is overwhelmed and underfunded. It is estimated that the necessary repairs and upgrades to these locks and dams could take many decades to complete. That is not acceptable.
What we need is a new way to effectively fund these projects in a more timely fashion.
Here is my solution:
I recently introduced a bipartisan bill in Congress with Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis that would help speed up improvements of our water infrastructure. The Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private companies to set up new partnerships to fund projects that would improve the locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
Allowing these public-private partnerships is an innovative and necessary step that would help the Army Corps come up with new funding to help clear the estimated $60 billion in outstanding projects that would take decades to complete without outside investment.
Since this type of public-private partnership would be a change from the current way the Army Corps operates, we need to make sure it works properly. That is why my bill has safeguards to make sure every proposed project would improve water infrastructure and not waste money and resources. Every project proposal would undergo an independent evaluation by a third party to ensure it provides a better alternative than the current system.
The fiscal constraints facing our nation require us to find new ways to get things done. My bill does that.
It will take financial burdens off the Army Corps of Engineers and taxpayers, stimulate growth in the private sector and guarantee our waterways remain safe and navigable for the countless number of goods and products that float down these rivers every day to markets across the world.
Making the necessary improvements to the infrastructure that is essential to economic activity across our region is long overdue. My goal is to make the movement of the high-quality goods and products of our region – whether they be from Caterpillar, Deere & Co. or the numerous farmers and manufacturers that call Illinois home – more swift, efficient, and safe.
These are goals we all agree make sense, regardless of your political party.
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos represents Illinois' 17th Congressional District and serves on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She lives in East Moline with her husband, Gerry. They have three grown sons.