The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit District said it anticipates Phase 3 construction will start this summer following a $1.068 billion contract for the New Lock at the Soo Phase 3 awarded July 1, 2022.
This contract allows the contractor Kokosing Alberici Traylor, LLC (KAT), a joint venture headquartered in Westerville, Ohio to begin constructing the largest phase, 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.
"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.
With Phase 1 nearly complete and Phase 2 scheduled for completion in summer 2024, the third construction phase is a big milestone for the project. A major cost increase led to a five-month contract award delay while the Corps of Engineers developed necessary reports to deliver a new cost estimate for reauthorization to Congress. The cost increase root causes are changing market conditions, inflation, a nationwide labor shortage, design modifications and early estimate assumptions.
The changes in cost since the project’s authorization in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 are, First Cost changed from $922 million to $2.932 billion, and the Project Fully Funded Cost changed from $1.031 billion to $3.189 billion. The Project First Cost is for project authorization use and calculated in today’s dollars. The Project Fully Funded Cost allows for escalation through the construction mid-point and anticipates what the project will 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, Michigan 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' 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.