This paper compares the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) total traffic and coal traffic forecasts with actual traffic levels on the Ohio River Mainstem (ORMS) and through the J. T. Myers Locks and Dam located near Evansville, Indiana. The analysis finds that the Corps greatly overestimated actual total traffic and coal traffic levels on the ORMS and through the J.T. Myers Locks and Dam.
Methodologies and data used in the Corps estimates of the benefits of lock improvements at the J.T Myers Locks and Dam were reviewed and found to be inconsistent with industry practices and economic theory. These inconsistencies and the greatly overestimated traffic forecasts are fundamental flaws in the analysis. These flaws make the Corps’ analysis an unreliable tool in guiding public investment decisions in Ohio River navigation improvements.
This report suggests needed changes in the Corps’ analyses to make them reliable tools in public investment decisions on proposed navigation improvements. Two National Research Council reports made similar recommendations for the Corps of Engineers’ benefit cost analyses of lock improvements on the Upper Mississippi River.
Where lock extensions, such as those at JT Myers and Greenup, cost hundreds of millions of dollars per extension, public benefits must be clear and distinguished from those benefits that accrue to the barge industry. It is clear that the Corps’ analyses must be revised and corrected before any rational funding decisions can be made on proposals to extend or replace locks on the Ohio River. Fortunately, the absence of any evidence indicating increasing coal traffic on the Ohio River provides adequate time for the Corps to correct and revise all of the mistakes in the previous Corps’ analyses before critical funding decisions must be made.