The new Soo Lock on the St. Marys River in Michigan, which connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron, is moving ahead with phases 2 and 3 of construction, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District said in a release.
The project now costs $3.22 billion — more than three times its initial price tag — due to labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and material cost increases over the past four years, according to the agency.
The Soo Locks are essential to U.S. manufacturing and national security. According to USACE, 88% of domestically produced high-strength steel — used to manufacture products like cars and appliances — is made with iron ore that can only move through the Poe Lock because shipping vessels cannot fit through the others.
The project entails building a second Poe-sized lock in the footprint of the decommissioned Sabin Lock to allow vessels to traverse the 21-foot elevation change at the St. Marys Falls Canal and accelerate shipping traffic.
Phase 2 of the project is rehabilitating the upstream approach walls, which will allow modern vessels to tie up and wait in line to pass through the new lock. The builder is Kokosing-Alberici, a joint venture of Fredericktown, Ohio-based Kokosing Industrial and Overland, Missouri-based Alberici Constructors. Work began in 2021 and it is on track for completion by summer 2024.
Work for Phase 3, the largest and most complicated phase according to USACE, includes demolishing the existing Sabin Lock; excavating bedrock; constructing the new lock; fabricating and installing miter gates; rehabilitating downstream approach walls; installing mechanical, electrical and mooring systems; and building a new pump well.
A joint venture of Kokosing Industrial, Alberici Constructors and Evansville, Indiana-based Traylor Bros. is building the third phase. Work began in November 2022 and is scheduled to finish in 2030. In the release, USACE said the contractors have a busy construction season ahead of them this summer.
“Since resuming major construction this season, the Phase 2 contractor has placed 13 concrete caps, bringing the total caps placed to 68 and preparation for placement of new steel sheets, steel posts and concrete panel wall are in progress,” New Lock Senior Project Manager Mollie Mahoney said in the release. “The Phase 3 contractor plans to focus on demolition of aging structures, extensive electrical work, bridge construction, and coffer dam construction to allow for dewatering.”
Phase 3 excavation work will also include blasting activities, according to the release.
Phase 1, which wrapped in August 2022, entailed deepening the upstream approach to the new Lock so modern vessels can traverse it. USACE said it finished the first portion of the project under budget and ahead of schedule.