Alexander pushing for new Lock funding - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Alexander pushing for new Lock funding

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Water rushes through the giant flood gates of the Chickamuaga Lock.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R) says if nothing is done soon to repair it the gates could shut down for good.

Right now the senator is pushing congress for $600 million for new lock construction.

"If chick lock fails it will flood Chattanooga. If it is closed down it will effect economic growth of all of East Tennessee."

Alexander proposes the Water Resources Development Act which would take federal money from a lock in Ohio and increased commercial funds and apply it to the Chickamauga Lock.

This program would add five more locks over a number of years allowing more cargo through.

The construction money for the lock is coming from 2009 stimulus money that has dried up. If there isn't any funding soon the lock will shut down in just a few years.

"If we only perform maintenance on it the lock will have to close," Alexander says.

Right now more than six million tons of resources travel through the lock but if it's closed, that would be changed to rail or roadway.

The Tennessee Transportation Department says this isn't possible.

A  2010 study shows Norfolk Southern would have to add 35 rail cars a day for an entire year to meet that demand.

Also more than 100,000 additional trucks would travel on the roads in Tennessee alone.

Rob Bradham with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce says, "What's at stake is we will lose everything northeast of us on the Tennessee watershed. Significant forestry and raw material up there that would not be able to be shipped down here."

The proposal goes before the Senate for a vote May 6th.

Alexander says he has received a lot of support in Washington.

If passed the next vote would be in the House.

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