Work is underway to design a new, 1,200-foot lock chamber at LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River.
The Rock Island Engineer District, working in conjunction with the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, awarded the $33.2 million contract for the 100 percent engineering design to Tetra Tech on September 26.
The new chamber will be built landward of the existing 600-foot chamber at Illinois River Mile 80.2. It will be constructed in the dry, and the 600-foot chamber will remain open both during construction and afterward, serving as an auxiliary lock chamber and providing redundancy to the system.
Second NESP Project
The project is the second of seven lock chambers to be built on the Illinois and Upper Mississippi rivers as part of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastruture Law.
The first project to receive funding was the new chamber at Lock and Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi, which received $732 in IIJA and is currently advancing toward the 65 percent level, with design to be complete in 2026, said Andrew Goodall, NESP regional program manager for the Rock Island Engineer District.
The new chamber at LaGrange Lock received $49.3 million in fiscal year 2023 congressionally directed spending for the design, environmental, cultural and technical site investigations and real estate acquisition.
“We anticipate the design being complete in calendar year 2026, and then the construction funding piece of the project is dependent on additional appropriations,” he said. “It is on the priority list in the overall inland navigation system for receiving construction funding, but when it will start receiving funding, I don’t know as I see it today.”
Goodall currently expects it to take roughly a half dozen construction contracts to build the LaGrange chamber, but he added that different package configurations are possible.
“We can be flexible from a design standpoint based on the funding that is available,” he said.
Some of the construction contracts could be advanced more quickly if funding is available, for example. The first contract would likely be for gates and machinery, and the second would be for site preparation and utility relocation, Goodall said.
The existing 600-foot chamber at LaGrange was built between 1936 and 1939. The last major rehabilitation of the lock was in 2020.
The new lock chamber would add efficiency, Goodall said. Tows that currently must be broken in half, “double locking” through the chamber, take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to transit it. That time would be reduced to 30 to 45 minutes, he said.
In announcing the contract award, Tetra Tech Chairman and CEO Dan Batrack said the company looks forward to working with the Corps of Engineers to design the new lock.
“The USACE Rock Island District maintains navigable waterways that are essential to the transportation of goods throughout the Midwest,” Batrack said. “Tetra Tech looks forward to using our Leading with Science approach to design systems that improve critical infrastructure, support public safety and enhance the resilience and reliability of U.S. waterborne transportation supply chains.”
Caption for top photo: A design shows the site plan of a new 1,200-foot lock chamber to be built landward of the existing 600-foot chamber at LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River. Tetra Tech was awarded the contract for the 100 percent engineering design. (Image courtesy of Rock Island Engineer District)