Michigan's $3.2b St. Marys River Project Enters New Phase

The project will include three phases.

Source : US Army Corps of Engineers

June 27, 2023

Author : Alex Bustillos

According to the UASCE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) Detroit District press release, Phases 2 and 3 of building the new Soo Lock on the St. Marys River in Michigan, connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron, is progressing. It is one of the district's largest projects located on the international border with Canada.

This project is estimated to cost $3.22 billion, thrice the initial estimations. As stated by the agency, the reasons behind this high price rise are labor shortage, supply chain disruptions, and a rise in material costs over the last four years. 

Phase 1 of the project was finished in August 2022 under budget and ahead of schedule, consisting of making the upstream approach to the New Lock deeper from 24 feet to 30 feet deep to allow modern vessels to approach the New Lock at the Soo.

For the nation's manufacturing and security purposes, the Soo Locks are crucial. USACE estimates that 88% of the country's domestically manufactured high-tensile steel, used to manufacture items like automobiles and gadgets, is produced from iron ore capable of passing through the Poe Lock as shipping vessels cannot pass through other locks. 

The project encompasses constructing a second Poe lock in the footprint of the defunct Sabin Lock to enable vessels to pass over the 21-foot St Mary's Falls Canal elevation change and speed up the shipping traffic.

Phase 2 of the project entails rehabilitating the upstream approach, which will enable contemporary vessels to tie up and queue up to pass through the new look. 

The construction work is conducted by Fredericktown's joint venture Kokosing-Alberici, which comprises the Ohio-based Kokosing Industrial and Overland and the Missouri-based Alberici Constructors. The project started in 2021 and is scheduled to finish by summer 2024.

According to the USACE statement, Phase 3 of the project is the largest and the most challenging one for the JV. It entails demolition of the existing Sabin Lock, excavating bedrock, building the new lock, fabricating and installing miter gates, restoring the downstream approach walls, installing mechanical electrical and mooring systems, and construction of a new pump well.

A joint venture between Kokosing Industrial, Alberici Constructors, and Evansville, Indiana-based Traylor Bros is constructing Phase 3 of the project. The project started in November 2022 and is estimated to finish by 2030. As per USACE's verdict to the contractors, they have a busy construction schedule ahead of them this summer.

In a recent press release, the New Lock Senior Project Manager Mollie Mahoney said, "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." 

Mahoney added, "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."

According to the announcement, blasting actions will also be a part of the Phase 3 excavation activity. 

Category : Federal Government Investment in Infrastructure Bridges

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