If the Panama Canal doesn't double in width: big problem? Alternatives?

See subject.

Never even knew it was in progress. Which is pretty funny/sad, considering it’s probably the most important construction project on the planet.

I wonder which mod will weigh in on this…

For alternatives, there may be a Nicaragua Canal in the works.

Wikipedia: Panama Canal expansion project includes sections on “Voices supporting the project” and “Voices against the project”.

I propose a Northwest Passage canal: a series of ice barriers in the Arctic to allow safe passage. As global warming really kicks in, less work will need to be done.

I didn’t know about it until I visited Panama a couple years ago. The current canal is MUCH narrower than I envisioned it. And 100 years old. Seems like a good time for an upgrade.

The cost overrun on a $7 billion dollar project is less than $2 billion and people are upset? That’s, like, the smallest major project overrun I’ve ever seen.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Why is it the most important construction project on the planet? They price their tolls at just under the cost of alternative transit methods (land bridge across the U.S. or going around the southern tip of South America), so it won’t be of major economic benefit to anyone except Panama.

But actually it seems cheap, seven billion dollars just doesn’t buy much any more. I remember we just had a discussion of the replacement of the Tappan Zee bridge (New York) which would cost almost that much.

I remember thinking, on boarding one, how narrow in the beam the Iowa class battleships were - to transit the Canal.

I’m sure that Panama will complete the current project, even if the Spanish company walks off the job permanently. The Panamanian government is playing hardball with them. These guys were probably playing “win the contract by underbidding and then stick the client with the cost overruns at the end” game. If in fact they’re not bluffing, then Panama will hire someone else to complete the job. This will cause delays but the job will get done.

I stated my reasons in that thread why I think this is probably an enormous scam. A Nicaragua Canal would require excavations more than 7 times the length of the current ones for the Panama Canal, and if they plan on accommodating the biggest Post-Panamax ships (which even the expanded Panama Canal won’t) that’s a much greater width too. They may have insufficient water to operate the locks as well. I don’t see this as being remotely viable unless the government of China takes it on as a kind of “Moon Shot” project.

There’s a whole class of cargo ships called Panamax, the widest and deepest that will safely pass through the Panama Canal.

I don’t know the details of why Panama, with all the locks necessary to compensate for altitude change, was chosen instead of a sea-level canal elsewhere a century ago. Then again, some of our diplomatic decisions today are just as mysterious.

Here’s the statement of Panama’s ambassador to Spain. He says that they haven’t completely cut off negotiations, but the article suggests that the Canal Authority may have contacted Bechtel to complete the work.

I think you need to look at what they had in terms of earth moving equipment a century ago. Moving that much earth a century ago would cost many, many multiples of the cost of the Panama Canal–and today too.

Where would you put it? A sea level canal isn’t possible, or would be even more difficult, anywhere else across Central America. Other possible routes are much longer than Panama, and would also involve an altitude change. Unlike Suez, Central America is mountainous. Note that the Nicaragua Canal is not only much longer, it would also require locks.

Besides being the shortest distance, much of the excavation across the isthmus was avoided by flooding the central part to form Lake Gatun. The lake also provides the water to operate the locks.

Let’s not forget the Atrato River valley, in Colombia not far from the Panama border, which was considered as a canal route in the 1850s, and again in the 1960s (pdf, in Spanish). It’s a long valley, but if you look on a map it’s not TOO crazy an idea. Okay, using nuclear bombs to build it (one of the 1960s proposals), THAT was crazy.

With all the advanced earth-moving we see in the interstate highways and mountain-top removal mining, it seems to me that a sea-level canal is now possible. It certainly would be God-awfully expensive, but so was the original Panama Canal way back then. Consider how expensive it is to transfer millions of freight containers onto Panamax ships instead of making the perilous trip through the roaring forties around Tierra del Fuego.

Possible and cost-effective are two different things. Expanding the canal is both. A sea level canal is only the first.

Interestingly they’re usingpocket gates instead of miter gates. Haven’t seen those used since the early Ohio river locks.

Back when the Colombian gov’t played the same game, we encouraged the Pamanians to revolt so we could have a friendlier gov’t to deal with. Obviously the solution now is for the Spanish to encourage an even thinner country based around the Canal to revolt, so they can just deal with them.

Right. The design of the Panama canal is brilliant.