"Inland waterways are a significant part of the nation's transportation system. Because of the national economic benefits of maritime transport, the federal government has invested in navigation infrastructure for two centuries. As a result, barge shipping has received significant support through federal funding for operational costs, capital expenditures, and major rehabilitation on inland waterways. Since the 1980s, expenditures for construction and major rehabilitation projects on inland waterways have been cost-shared on a 50/50 basis between the federal government and users through the Inland Waterway Trust Fund (IWTF), with operations and maintenance costs remaining a 100% federal responsibility. […] The user industry (including the barge industry and agricultural groups) argues that changes are necessary to shore up the trust fund, improve the deteriorating state of inland waterway infrastructure, and distribute cost responsibilities more equitably among those who benefit from the system (i.e., more funding by federal taxpayers). They argue that these changes would support jobs for a vital component of the nation's transportation mix. The Obama Administration has generally agreed that major changes are needed to meet new infrastructure needs, but argues that these revenues should continue to be shared between users and the federal government. Taxpayer and environmental advocacy groups have argued against additional federal support for the IWTF, and in some cases argue for an increased share of costs to be borne by users (i.e., a decreased share for the federal government). These groups often disagree with the justifications for increased investment in inland waterways, and note that the barge industry already benefits from generous federal support in the form of 100% federal funding for operations and maintenance costs on inland waterways."
CRS Report for Congress, R41430