GRAND RIVERS, KY -
The lock project at the Kentucky Dam completed a big step forward in construction. The current lock at the dam creates a huge bottleneck effect. Barges wait six to nine hours before they're able to travel through the waterway. Those wait times are among the longest in the country.
The US Army Corps of Engineers say the answer to these problems and more than a decade's worth of construction is in 130,000 cubic yards of concrete, a monolith. A monolith looks like a huge concrete slab. But this slab is the first 'building block' to the finishing the rest of the two lock walls at Kentucky Dam. This project has been under construction since 1998.
Construction managers say this is an exciting step, but they know they'll will have to wait longer for its completion. Those who have lived in the area long enough know the construction has been an ongoing process. Terry Mott has lived in Livingston County since mid 60's. He says he moved to the area when they built Lake Barkley, and tried to remember how long construction crews occupied Kentucky lock and dam project. Although he hopes the progress would go a little faster. Mott says, "It's taking so long to build it I don't know how many more years I got."
Project manager Don Getty says the single monolith is a huge milestone, "Ready to finish this phase of the project and move onto the next one."
The monolith is the first of 60 more, but the next time it will be functioning, it will be underwater. Getty says the monoliths and the locks will help the river system, "We really need this new lock to eliminate those delays and get a more efficient river system."
But until both the lock walls are completed, construction cranes will continue at the Kentucky Dam.
Construction managers say the earliest we can expect construction to be finished is 2023, and that's if their funding levels are maintained.
For construction managers are planning for the next phase, nine more monoliths. This project is estimated around $97 million.
The total cost for the Kentucky lock project is $862 million. It's funded half by federal tax dollars and half by the marine industries through the diesel fuel tax.