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Transportation secretary visits Seaway employees

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MASSENA — U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond H. LaHood came to the Eisenhower Lock on Thursday to commend Seaway employees for their contribution to commerce and transportation.

For the third time since taking office in January 2009, Mr. LaHood visited employees of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. in Massena to observe recent improvements made at the facilities.

Craig H. Middlebrook, the corporation’s acting administrator, thanked Mr. LaHood for visiting the facility more than any other transportation secretary and for recognizing the importance of the employees who help manage the waterway.

“We’re thrilled and honored he would take the time to come up here,” Mr. Middlebrook said. “He has underscored that what the Seaway has done is create a vital economic link between the Great Lakes and the rest of the world.”

Mr. LaHood touched on recent advancements at the Seaway, such as a new Draft Information System, which projects a three-dimensional image of the base of a ship to both on-board and land-based navigation equipment. This allows sailors and Seaway workers to pinpoint where a ship’s keel is in comparison to the riverbed.

“We know precisely where the ship’s keel is,” Mr. Middlebrook said.

Mr. LaHood also came to see the Canadian Seaway management program’s recently entered relationship with Transport Canada, which is calling for the Canadian government to invest $400 million toward Seaway improvements over the next five years, according to Mr. Middlebrook.

The U.S. government has pledged to invest $85 million toward Seaway improvements over this same period of time, which Mr. Middlebrook says will result in the most investment in the Seaway since it opened in 1957.

Mr. Middlebrook expects the public funding will help spur private investment, as well. “I think that in response to that public commitment, you’re also seeing a private commitment,” Mr. Middlebrook said.

Mr. Middlebrook said Mr. LaHood’s theme for his visit was using transportation to improve the world. That is expected to be Mr. LaHood’s final visit to the region as transportation secretary. Late last month President Barack Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., to replace Mr. LaHood as transportation secretary.

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