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Soo Locks project could cost up to three times original estimate

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Army Corps of Engineers
The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Just this January, members of Michigan's congressional delegation were celebrating securing the final federal dollars for what was supposed to be a $1.3 billion project to build a new lock at the Soo Locks.

So it's caused widespread consternation in Michigan and D.C. that the U.S. Army Corps now projects a cost much more than that — maybe three times as much, according to those who've been briefed by the Corps.

About 10,000 ships pass through the locks each year, the Corps says. The new lock will provide redundancy, enabling the largest freighters to pass between the lower Great Lakes and Lake Superior if the older Poe lock is closed for repairs. Many of the large freighters carry iron ore and other materials crucial to U.S. manufacturing facilities.

The Corps says it can't release a firm figure right now because it's in the midst of contract negotiations for the work. It says the changed estimate for the project is due to changing market conditions, including higher costs for materials, equipment, and labor.

Michigan officials say the funding situation means it could take longer to finish the lock, which was slated to become operational in 2030.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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