Gate replacement progresses at McAlpine Locks and Dam

U.S. Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
Published Aug. 14, 2020

Work continues on the north lock chamber of McAlpine Locks and Dam on the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of the $30 million miter gate replacement project.


The five-month closure of the lock allows the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Regional Rivers Repair Fleet to replace the 1950s-era miter gates and related equipment on each end of the chamber.


According to Tim Fudge, Louisville District Operations Division Chief, major maintenance projects such as this are critical to ensure reliability and efficiency on the inland waterways system—a vital artery, which fuels America’s economy. The aging gates were a growing concern. With more than 54 million tons of commodities moving through McAlpine Locks and Dam annually, a failure would have far-reaching impacts.

“The old gates were showing significant signs of fatigue,” said Craig Moulton, Louisville District project manager for the McAlpine Miter Gate Replacement project. “By replacing them with new, 320-ton steel miter gate leaves and conducting other necessary repairs it should reduce the need for extended maintenance closures for years to come.”


Most of the heavy lifting is being performed with equipment from the Heavy Capacity Fleet conveniently ported at the Louisville Repair Station at McAlpine Locks and Dam, but the condensed project schedule calls for all hands-on deck. Nearly 100 fleet employees and laborers from across the region are onsite each day to ensure the project is completed on time.


“Everything is on schedule and running pretty smoothly,” said Moulton. “As of early August, the chamber has been dewatered, all four old miter gate leafs have been removed, and significant progress has been made on repairs to the pintle ball bases where the new gate leaves will rest.”


“The ones here at McAlpine are cracking and the repairs over the decades have started failing, necessitating replacement,” said Moulton.


Simultaneously, a contractor is onsite replacing floating mooring bitt tracks, where vessels tie off when locking, to increase safety for vessel traffic.


“There is a significant amount of work going on, and doing it in five-months is really unprecedented,” said Moulton.


Cost-savings and efficiency drove the decision to combine the repairs into one condensed project versus two projects in consecutive years as slated.

Fudge, responsible for the Operations and Maintenance program for the district’s nine locks and dams, said the comprehensive project is a win-win. “It saves the American taxpayer by providing an estimated cost savings of $15 million and lessens the impact on our industry partners by reducing the time the lock will be out of service in half, cutting the closure from a total of 10 months to only five.”


The chamber is scheduled to reopen in mid-November.