Case Study - Olmsted Locks & Dam Upgrades

Published: 03/25/2015

Project Timeline: 2009-Present
Project Partners

United States Army Corps of Engineers
Cincinnati, OH

GC: URS (Washington Group)
San Francisco, CA

GC: Alberici Constructors, Inc.
St Louis, MO

Products: 12,000+ tons of specialty Carbon Steel Pipe in custom lengths

Described as the “hub” of America’s inland waterways, the strategic section at Ohio River Mile 964.4 near Olmsted, Illinois, provides a crucial connection between the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers. More tonnage passes through this single point than any other place in the nation’s inland navigation system. And that’s a problem. Locks and 52 and 53 were completed back in 1929, and while upgraded in the late 60’s and 70’s, the antiquated design and age of these structures made it impossible to meet current traffic demands without significant delays. Plans were approved for two new 110-ft. x 1200-ft. lock chambers located along the Illinois shoreline. The new dam would consist of 5 tainter gates, a 1,400-ft. navigable pass, and a fixed weir.

One of the largest projects ever undertaken by the Corps, the Olmsted Locks & Dam sought to leverage tools and techniques never before attempted on this scale. Previously, all dams built by the Corps on a major river were constructed with a cofferdam. Olmsted was to be built “in the wet,” using steel reinforced concrete shells weighing up to 4,800 tons each. Using the largest capacity gantry train in the world, dam segments were to be lifted, transported and set to extremely close tolerances (1” horizontal and ½” vertical) into the dam foundation. Add the use of giant grout mats to cover the river bottom, tremie concrete pumped under the shells and an innovative pile driving template for pinpoint placement, Olmsted was pushing the engineering envelope.

Enter Edgen Murray. With a long history of waterway projects, experience with the Army Corps’ strict document channel and expertise with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses, Edgen hit the ground running. The requirements called for carbon steel tubulars produced in strict accordance with API 5L specifications, along with full compliance with a series of unique weld procedures, NDT and CVN tests. All weld test and quality procedures required approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. And all impact testing and inspection required increased frequency, critical test temperatures and advanced absorbed energy values.

At the outset, Edgen Murray assigned an internal project manager to oversee the day-to-day operations, inspections, and logistics. Edgen maintained continuous communication, including a weekly status report with project personnel, to manage compliance and ensure all the test reports flowed to the job site before materials were received. When an offshore supply resource encountered a delay, Edgen jumped in to re-supply the necessary raw materials to the fabricator out of its substantial domestic inventory to help speed delivery. And when the specs called for piles to be custom-cut to exact lengths, once again, Edgen delivered—eliminating the need for divers and underwater cutting—thus saving the project valuable dollars.

To date, Edgen Murray has supplied over 12,000 tons of specialty Carbon Steel Pipe from sizes 16” to 54” OD, up to 1.750” thick. With seven separate orders over the last six years, the partnership continues to flow. The new Olmsted Locks & Dam are set to be operational in 2020. Once on line, projected lockage time will be reduced from 5 hours to less than an hour. Annual economic benefits to the nation are estimated at more than $640 million. And soon, one of America’s most valuable transportation networks will be back up, running and rolling on a river, for many years to come.


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