It is essentially a gigantic ditch, packed with equipment, concrete, rebar and thousands of laborers from many countries. It is a hotbed of construction challenges and a momentous sequel to one of the world's engineering epics: the original 1914 construction of the Panama Canal. The $3.1-billion third set of locks, the centerpiece of the $5-billion expansion, is taking distinct shape even as an international workforce continues to wrestle with tough materials, geology and logistical issues.
"You can see the progress," says Gerardo Delrio, construction manager for CH2M Hill, program manager for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). "We've seen the contractors struggling a bit, but they've eventually overcome the learning curve." The "name of the game" for the job is its 100-year design life, he adds.