Brandon Road Lock Work Expected To Cause Delays This Summer
Work at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Illinois Waterway will include a restriction period and partial closure beginning next month and a full closure for three weeks in the late summer along with an extended closure next year at four locks along the waterway.
During the restriction period and partial closure, traffic will pass under a 70-foot width restriction from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. only May 9-August 14 at Brandon Road, according to the Rock Island District.
The full closure this year will be August 15-September 4 at Brandon Road, with the final restriction period and partial closure taking place there September 5-8.
The Illinois Waterway, which provides a navigable connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, includes eight lock and dam sites, each with a single lock for passing vessel traffic. To facilitate repairs at the aging locks and dams, the Corps developed a consolidated repair schedule in collaboration with industry that included a short closure to locks in 2019 followed by two extended closures in 2020 and 2023. The closures were scheduled to take place at multiple locks simultaneously to lessen the impact to commercial navigation.
Darren Melvin, treasurer of the Illinois River Carriers’ Association, said the work at Brandon Road Lock and Dam was originally scheduled to be completed in 2020 but had to be delayed because the Corps didn’t receive any bids to complete the work at Brandon Road at the same time as repairs to Dresden Lock and Dam were taking place. He added that there were a limited number of contractors available to do the work in the region.
“We did ask them to do it this year rather than push it off to 2023 when we have full closures at multiple locks next year,” Melvin said of the repairs to Brandon Road.
Melvin praised the collaboration between the Corps and industry to minimize impacts to navigation.
The biggest impact with the restrictions in place beginning next month are likely to be locking delays, he said.
“We lose locking ability 12 hours a day during that timeframe, and then the 12 hours they do locking, it is limited to 70-foot width, which is four to five barges and the towboat,” he said. “That’s going to dramatically slow the traffic down. We’re anticipating delays but not sure what we’re going to see yet.”
As a comparison, Melvin said when Marseilles and Starved Rock locks and dams were under similar restrictions in 2019, delays averaged about 72 hours in each direction.
The Illinois River Carriers’ Association has encouraged membership, if at all possible, to move barges in advance of the restriction to get inventories on the same side of the lock as their destination or to wait until the restriction period is over.
The full closure at Brandon Road is designed to take place before the bulk of the fall harvest, Melvin said.
He said of the harvest, “It’s just starting in September, so the anticipation is the work should be done and finalized before the heavier harvest volumes come in.”
Additionally, he said, there is no grain loading north of Brandon Road Lock anymore, although there are other barge movements associated with harvest time.
The Rock Island District reported that this year’s work will focus on upper bulkhead recess installation. The district also reported the restriction and closure dates are subject to change based on weather, COVID-19 or other unforeseen conditions. Up-to-date information is available at any time via www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Navigation-Status/.
In 2023, the Corps is scheduled to complete upper miter gate installation and machinery replacement at Brandon Road with a full closure scheduled for June 1-September 30, 2023.
Other work scheduled to begin along the waterway June 1, 2023, will necessitate full closures of approximately 120 days at Dresden Lock and Dam and 90-120 days at both Marseilles Lock and Dam and Starved Rock Lock and Dam.