The Olmsted Locks and Dam project, located on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky, has taken 30 years and $3 billion to complete. But after three decades, the project is slated to be operational in October.
The engineers and workers behind the development say the investment is worth it.
"The Ohio flows into the Mississippi 16 miles downriver from us, and then it's open passage all the way down to New Orleans and into the ocean,” explains Mick Awbreyk, the Army Corps of Engineers deputy chief for the Olmsted Division. “There is no locks and dams from the Olmsted to the ocean."
He says the innovative details that went into the project are “phenomenal and truly world class.”
Awbreyk will see the opening of the project, which began in 1988.
So, why has it taken so long to complete?
“The nature of the project; a lot of different things have led to the duration,” explains Awbreyk of the timeline. “One: it hasn't been fully funded until calendar 2013, fiscal years 2014 and that’s the nature of civil works projects."
The dam crosses one of the busiest shipping lanes in the United States. Awbreyk says about 91 million tons of goods on average come through the area per year.
“The equivalent of 25,000 semi-trucks worth of cargo passes through this site every year,” says Awbreyk. “You can imagine the wear and tear on the interstates and the highways that would have an extra 25,000 vehicles that will be on there per day."
The project's price tag has grown to around $3 billion. Workers here say it's money Americans will see come back to them.
"It’s widely important. The return on investment on this particular project is $640 million per year to the nation,” says Awbreyk. “That’s a net number, so ultimately it’s a little under a $3 billion price tag; it will pay for itself in five years.”