U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District Marseilles and Ottawa, Illinois, United States

Rehabilitating two locks on the Illinois Waterway during a critical closure period

Maintaining a key U.S. inland waterway

The Illinois Waterway is a major shipping artery that connects Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. Each year, barges carrying more than 29 million tons of commodities traverse the 336-mile-long waterway with the aid of eight lock and dam structures that help control navigable water levels. To facilitate planned maintenance and improvements to this critical infrastructure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed a consolidated closure schedule designed to lessen impacts to commercial navigation and the industries they serve. During the 2020 closure, Alberici simultaneously refurbished lock chambers at the Marseilles and Starved Rock locks.

Renovating historic locks

Both locks were originally constructed in 1933 and feature lock chambers measuring 600 feet long by 110 feet wide with upstream and downstream miter gates that that weigh up to 240 tons each. Alberici’s scope of work included removal and replacement of embedded quoin; replacement of miter gate anchorages, pintles, and embedded frames; demolition and reconstruction of the gate control buildings and access staircases; modification of existing sills; and relocation of miter gate controls and electrical components to protect against 100-year floods.

Building with precision

Using our multi-discipline craft workforce, Alberici self-performed more than 70% of the project, including concrete removal and replacement, steel installation, and construction of the new control buildings. Much of the work was performed from elevated lifts with limited workspace, requiring careful coordination between trades to alleviate site congestion. Working in isolated areas, Alberici crews also installed embeds weighing up to 20,000 pounds each within extremely tight tolerances of less than one-sixteenth of an inch.

Working diligently to overcome significant challenges

To prevent significant financial losses for commercial users of the inland waterway system, Alberici performed the project under an accelerated four-month schedule. The scope and scale of required work within the compressed time frame presented significant challenges, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and a high-water event that made the site inaccessible for two weeks. In response, Alberici crews worked around the clock, seven days a week, to successfully meet USACE’s critical completion milestone.

Complete alignment among project stakeholders

Project team members from both Alberici and USACE attribute their success to a shared commitment to collaboration. The team participated in a series of formal partnering sessions throughout the project to align priorities and minimize conflict. This commitment to working together toward a common set of goals significantly improved the project’s quality, safety, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness.