The contracting group that is building the new set of locks at the Panama Canal completed the first monolith of the new locks on the Pacific end of the canal.
The monolith is the first of 46 such structures to be completed in the upper chamber of the Pacific locks.
The massive concrete and steel structure is 111 feet high, 24.6 feet wide and 88.6 feet deep, and is located in the upper chamber’s east side.
Enormous culverts, which are part of the system that fills and empties the locks, will run along the lock walls, which are made up of these monoliths. The main culvert alone is 27.2 feet wide by 21.3 feet high, big enough to enable the simultaneous passage of two railroads. The lock walls will also contain auxiliary culverts measuring 21.3 feet by 21.3 feet.
Construction of this first monolith required 232 tons of reinforced steel and 91,995 cubic feet of concrete.
The new set of locks are slated to be completed in 2014 but will not be open for commercial traffic until 2015. Grupo Unidos por el Canal, the contractor of the project, was unable to mix concrete with the degree of impermeability required by its $3.2 billion contract with the Panama Canal Authority. As a result, the start of construction on the new locks was delayed by six months last year from January until July.
The new locks on the Pacific side of the canal will enable ships with more than double the container capacity of the current Panamax-sized ships to transit one set of locks, instead of the two existing locks, from the sea level of the Pacific Ocean up to the level of Lake Gatun and then through another set of new locks down to the level of the Caribbean Sea.
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