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Critical need: McClellan-Kerr Navigation Systems

Critical need: McClellan-Kerr Navigation Systems

This article first appeared in the Tulsa World.
Navigation system endangered
By World's Editorial Writers
Published: 5/4/2009  2:22 AM
Last Modified: 5/4/2009  3:54 AM

Among the major public infrastructure projects around here in need of major repairs is the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, a vital economic artery that pumps millions into the state's economy each year, and which is especially important to the Tulsa area.

According to a recent report, the navigation system is facing an $80 million backlog in critical needs and another $162 million in deferred maintenance.

According to Glen Cheatham Jr., waterways branch manager for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, there is a 50-50 chance of a structure along the system failing within the next five years.

Such a failure would necessitate shutting down the entire system, which is a major freight movement corridor connecting northeast Oklahoma with the Mississippi River. Closing down the waterway would cost Oklahoma businesses an estimated $1.3 million a day.

Officials say 20 structures are in need of critical repairs. A mechanism for funding maintenance so such needs don't become so extreme is being sought by the system's managers.

We've seen it happen again and again in this country: Massive, vital public works that are critical to the nation's well-being and commerce are envisioned, engineered and constructed, only to be allowed to fall into disrepair.

Remember the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis that resulted in unnecessary tragedies and drastically affected that region for months? How many such incidents need to occur before we finally learn the lesson of taking care of our most important public assets?

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