Construction set to begin on Phase 3 of new Soo lock

(SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District anticipates Phase 3 construction of the new Soo lock will start this summer following the award of $1.068 billion in project funding on July 1.

Kokosing Alberici Traylor LLC (KAT), a joint venture headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, will begin construction on the largest phase of the project, which includes the new lock chamber and rehabilitation of the downstream approach walls. With continued funding, the remaining work — valued at $803.95 million — may be awarded over the next three years. Corps of Engineers officials expect Phase 3 construction to take seven years.

An artist’s rendering depicts what the Soo Locks will look like after the project is completed. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

“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 … project completion in summer 2030,” said project manager Mollie Mahoney.

Phase 1 of the project is nearly complete and Phase 2 is scheduled for completion in summer 2024. A major cost increase led to a five-month contract award delay for Phase 3 while the Corps of Engineers developed reports to deliver a new cost estimate to Congress. The root causes of the cost increase are changing market conditions, inflation, a nationwide labor shortage, design modifications and early estimate assumptions.

Since the project’s authorization in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the first cost changed from $922 million to $2.932 billion and the fully funded cost changed from $1.031 billion to $3.189 billion. The first cost is for project authorization and is calculated in today’s dollars. The fully funded cost allows for escalation through the construction midpoint and anticipates what the project will ultimately cost.

“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 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 at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and allow 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. This new lock project will construct a second Poe-sized lock (110 feet by 1,200 feet) 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 node is essential to U.S. manufacturing and national security, according to the study.

For more information about the new lock project, click here.

– U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

By Rich Miller