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Ohio constructor awarded Soo Locks contract

Second phase superlock construction project goes to Kokosing Alberici

An Ohio contractor has been awarded a more than US$111-million contract to work on the approach walls to the proposed new superlock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the second phase of its massive three-part construction project has been awarded to Kokosing Alberici LLC of Westerville, Ohio.

This appears to be a project-specific consortium set up between two major public infrastructure giants in Kokosing Construction Company of Ohio and Alberici Constructors, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.

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The Corps of Engineer said the contract involves stabilizing the existing approach walls to the new lock to allow ships to tie up and wait their turn to transit.

Construction on that phase begins next spring and will take two years to complete.

Work on the long-awaited transportation mega-project, valued at US$922.4-million, finally began last summer and is expected to take 10 years to complete.

The new lock, expected to open to commercial navigation in 2030, will built to the same dimensions as the existing Poe Lock, which is capable of handling the largest vessels on the Great Lakes at more than 1,000 feet (308 metres) in length and 105 feet (32 metres) in width.

The new lock will be built on the site of the decommissoned and outdated Davis and Sabin locks, both built during the First World War era.

"The Corps looks forward to beginning construction on the upstream approach walls next spring, and we continue to work hard to maintain the pace and meet all milestones in bringing our nation's New Lock at the Soo to fruition,” said Detroit District Commander Lt. Col. Scott Katalenich in a statement.

The first phase to deepen the upstream channel, on the Lake Superior side of the new lock, started in June. That work wraps up in November 2021.

Trade West Construction of Nevada is focussed on dredging the eastern side of the decommissioned Sabin Lock’s north channel so Kokosing Alberici can begin work immediately in that area next spring, according to the Corps.

“It is so important that we stay on track as work areas for the three phases do overlap and construction needs to be accomplished in a certain order,” said New Lock Project Manager Mollie Mahoney.

“Awarding the phase two contract right on schedule sets the clock for phase three work to begin on time in 2022.”

Actually constructing the new lock chamber - the third and biggest phase of the project - still remains in the design stages, said the Corps of Engineers, and is expected to be advertised for bid next spring.

The Soo Locks are on the St. Mary's River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, handling commercial freighters over the nine-metre elevation drop in water levels.

This construction is considered a nationally critical project by the Department of Homeland Security. More than 85 per cent of raw commodity tonnage (iron ore, coal, limestone) through the Soo Locks transits through the Poe Lock.