SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WJMN) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District (USACE) announced earlier this month it has awarded a $1.068 billion contract to an Ohio company towards the continued construction of a new lock in the Soo Locks. The new funds will contribute towards Phase 3 of the lock’s construction, which includes a new lock chamber and rehabilitation of the downstream approach walls.

Kokosing Alberici Traylor, LLC (KAT), a joint venture based in Westerville, Ohio, has been contracted to head up the construction. Phase 3 construction is anticipated to begin this summer and is estimated to last seven years.

Phase 1 of the lock’s construction is nearly complete, while Phase 2 is scheduled to complete in the summer of 2024. The Phase 1 goal to deepen the upstream channel began in spring 2020, while Phase 2 to rehabilitate the upstream approach walls began in spring 2021.

USACE posted the following rendering of how the Soo Locks will look following the project:

Photo Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers

According to ASACE, over 88 percent of cargo shipped through the Soo Locks is restricted by vessel size to the Poe Lock. The new lock project will construct a second Poe-sized lock (110′ by 1,200′) on the existing decommissioned Davis and Sabin locks site.

Remaining funding needed to complete the project is currently valued at $803.95 million and may be awarded over the next three years.

USACE says a major cost increase led to a five-month contract award delay while the Corps of Engineers developed reports to deliver a new cost estimate to Congress. USACE points to changing market conditions, inflation, a nationwide labor shortage, design modifications, and early estimate assumptions as causes for the increase in overall cost.

Since the project was authorized in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, USACE says Project 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 used to get the project authorized and is calculated in today’s dollar value. The Project Fully Funded Cost allows for escalation through the construction 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.”

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.

You can learn more about the project here.