After nearly 30 years of construction, Olmsted Locks and Dam passed the first tow barge through its system at a ceremony Thursday on the Ohio River. The $3 billion infrastructure project that’s touted as the hub of the nation’s inland waterways.
Olmsted will replace locks and dam 52 and 53 which were built in the 1920’s and passed their design life by about 50 years. The old locks and dam are beginning to show their age. Breakdowns have been more frequent in the past couple of years, halting traffic on a 25-mile stretch of the Ohio River from Smithland, Kentucky to Brookport, Illinois. Matt Lowe was the project manager for Olmsted from 2012 to 2016. Lowe hopes people see more than the cost of the project and the time it took to complete.
“We know that this lock and dam is going to be here for decades and that’s a big deal because it’s something that you can always look back upon and say not only did I do something of great engineering and construction significance but I also did something that’s going to help commerce and going to help the United States,” he said.
Olmsted was originally slated for completion in 2013 and expected to cost $775 million. But economic projections show that the benefits of improved water transport will outweigh the costs within five years. This stretch of the Ohio river provides about $640 million in net economic benefits to the country.