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Corps Breaks Ground On Upper Ohio Navigation Project

Shovels of dirt were turned ceremonially on August 11 at Montgomery Locks and Dam to mark the beginning of construction for phase one of the Upper Ohio Navigation Project.

The project involves the first three locks and dams on the Ohio River downstream from Pittsburgh: Emsworth (Mile 6.2), Dashields (Mile 13.3) and Montgomery (Mile 13.7). Existing 360- by 56-foot auxiliary lock chambers, the smallest of all lock chambers on the Ohio River, will be replaced with new 600- by 110-foot chambers ó the same size as existing main chambers ó at each.

Col. Nicholas Melin, who took over command of the Pittsburgh Engineer District one week prior, noted the history of the Corps of Engineers’ involvement in promoting safe navigation on the region’s rivers, calling it the district’s oldest and most enduring mission.

“Today were here to break ground on phase one of a historic, long-term project to modernize inland navigation on the upper Ohio River again,” he said.

The project schedule calls for design at Montgomery to continue through the end of this year and for a contract for the new riverside chamber to be awarded toward the end of 2024. Design at Emsworth has begun and is to continue through 2025.

Construction at Emsworth is scheduled to take place from 2032-2042. Design at Dashields is to take place 2025-2027 with construction there anticipated for 2043-2051.

Melin also noted that the project would not have been possible with-out the funding included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

However, while that money was previously expected to fund construction of the new lock at Montgomery to completion, a new certified cost estimate completed by the Corps on June 16 estimates the Montgomery work to cost roughly $1.7 billion, an addition of $513 million to the original estimate, more than doubling the original anticipated cost for the new lock.

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