The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $1.068 billion contract to Kokosing Alberici Traylor (KAT) for Phase 3 of the Soo Locks upgrade project.
The contract allows KAT, a joint venture headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, to begin the largest phase of the project, the new lock chamber and rehabilitation of the downstream approach walls. USACE officials expect Phase 3 construction to take seven years, with Phase 1 nearly complete and Phase 2 scheduled for completion in summer 2024.
“The Corps of Engineers looks forward to beginning construction on the new lock chamber later this summer, and we continue to work hard to maintain the pace and continue to make progress toward New Lock at the Soo total project completion in summer 2030,” said New Lock at the Soo Project Manager Mollie Mahoney.
A major cost increase led to a five-month delay in the contract award while the Corps of Engineers developed necessary reports to deliver a new cost estimate for reauthorization to Congress. In fact, the changes in cost since the project’s authorization in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 changed from a first cost of $922 million to $2.932 billion, and $1.031 billion to $3.189 billion fully funded.
USACE said the root causes of the cost increase included changing market conditions, inflation, a nationwide labor shortage, design modifications and early estimate assumptions.
The remaining work, valued at $803.95 million, may be awarded over the next three years.
“We recognize funding a larger amount for the New Lock at the Soo is a challenge that could potentially result in schedule impacts,” said Deputy District Engineer Kevin McDaniels. “The Corps of Engineers is partnering with industry and federal agencies to find collaborative solutions aimed at addressing the cost impacts to Corps of Engineers programs and projects nationwide.”
The project’s long-awaited first phase to deepen the upstream channel began in spring of 2020 and is substantially complete with punch-list items and final cleanup remaining. The project’s second phase to rehabilitate the upstream approach walls began in spring of 2021 and is scheduled to be complete summer of 2024.
The Soo Locks are situated on the St. Marys River, linking Lake Superior to Lake Huron, at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The locks are a vital link in the nation’s supply chain, allowing vessels to transit the 21-foot elevation change at the St. Marys Falls Canal. Over 88 percent of commodity tonnage through the Soo Locks is restricted by vessel size to the Poe Lock.
The new lock project will construct a second Poe-sized lock, measuring 110′ by 1,200′, on the existing decommissioned Davis and Sabin locks site.
A 2015 Department of Homeland Security study estimates a six-month Poe Lock closure would temporarily reduce the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.1 trillion, resulting in the loss of 11 million jobs. This Great Lakes Navigation System critical node is essential to U.S. manufacturing and National Security according to the study.
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided nearly $479 million to finish a long-awaited new lock.
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