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.
The market is generally healthy and steadily growing, and margins are up for large specialty contractors. Further, advances in design tools and owner demand for collaboration are giving subcontractors a seat at the table early on in projects.