Our tax dollars at work- the Olmsted Locks and Dam Replacement project is a sight to behold. The Olmsted Lock and Dam will replace two older locks – and is still under construction on the Ohio River at mile marker 964.4. For loopers it is a much anticipated stretch of the river, with stories being passed on long (on the forums) of 5-6 hour waits and occasional stories of going through the locks at night due to long delays and shortage of good anchorages.
The Olmsted Project
First a little background of statistics gleaned from “Wikepedia”. There is lots of information on line if you search “the Olmsted lock and dam”.
The new lock will replace two deteriorating 85 and 86 year old locks on the busiest section of the Ohio River. 90 Million tons of material is shipped through these locks annually. When one is down for repairs, barges are quickly backed up for days.
The investment in the river transportation is considered the most efficient way to transport materials. A typical 15 barge, 1200 foot long, 22,500 Ohio River tow carries as many as 1,050 trucks or 240 rail cars and uses 75% less fuel than trucking , and 31% less than shipping by rail.
Shipments include coal, corn, soybeans, iron , steel, and cement.
The following information provided by the Corp of Engineers site, and some from opinion pages online- One source (ww.circleofblue.org) said this is the largest and most expensive inland water navigation installation ever built in the United States. It has been under construction for 30 years and the current price tag is about $3.1 billion. The original budget was $ 775 million.
There is some controversy as this projects continues to gain funding and overruns its budget at time when so many other infrastructure projects across country need funding and are put on hold.
Bill Clinton was in office when the Army Corp of Engineers started construction in 1993. It was originally to be completed in 1999. Currently the completion date is set at 2020.
Boating through a lock under construction:
Due to the construction, boaters are escorted through the lock ,the construction area and past the now closed lock number 53. (one of the locks that is being replaced) We were a group of 9 boats by the time we approached the lock, and arranged to pass to together. The lock master had us hover to the side of the basin while he continued to lock the barges up and down the river.
Luckily we only had to wait an hour or so, and got the call to begin lining up behind the tow that would escort us through. The tow name was Cowboy Carl- so we all lined up and slowly passed through the construction area.
Occasionally someone would get on the radio and say “did you see the size of the lift? 3350 tons??) Or “get a look at the cement mixers” or ” how do they move those cranes?
One task of the project is to move concrete pieces that weighs 9.9 million pounds.
We just glided past – sometimes wondering who was watching who….
Took one last look back as we left the construction zone to see just how large the construction area is was. Its hard to show through our photo.
We continued to follow the towboat a few more miles until we passed the old lock and dam and then continued on our way.
One last shot that includes our flag for the Great Lakes Cruising Club with the new lock in the background
Proud to represent the GLCC as move south.
Ready for the next challenge- one more lock #52 on the Ohio.