I’m very excited to be posting this. My beautiful wife and I got the opportunity to walk where nobody will ever set foot again. About 8am on a Saturday morning, we got a call from our friends Chris and Dick. They invited us to attend the Family and Friends Tour of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. An hour later we were seated in the back seat of their SUV with 3 other couples in two other vehicles following us toward Panama City and the canal expansion project. As we drove, Chris explained how they had a name of a person who was a worker on the project and that we were “on the list”. In my mind, a VERY important fact. When we got closer to Cocoli, the traffic started to get heavier. We made the turn onto the exit and came to a complete stop. We were still a couple miles away from the expansion. Behind us, a motorcycle officer pulled in front of the second car behind us and started hollering in Spanish and pointing back to the highway. As I watched, people behind us started to turn their cars around and drive back down to the highway, including one of the couples who were with us.
As we sat and waited, we saw people parking on the shoulder of the highway and walking toward the expansion. Finally, we started to move again toward Cocoli.
Cars were parked in ever tiny hole that they would fit into.
We found a side road and Dick drove up the road, turned around and parked behind the last car in line. We walked down to the main street and flagged down a coaster bust that was headed toward the project.
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you know how they make you snake your way around the stanchions to get to the ride.
The Panama Canal Expansion project was no different, except we were snaking around bus stops built into the staging area.
This is the area where the workers are picked up by buses to be taken to the job site. Due to the size of the project and the workforce needed, this helps reduce the amount of vehicles at the actual expansion.
As we slowly moved toward the front of the line, the heat started to take its toll, my wife being one of the people succumbing to the heat.
I left my wife in the care of the paramedics and continued toward the front of the line.
Once there, I boarded a bus that would take me to the Expansion.
We drove past the buildings that will house the controls for the new gates
and down to the south end of the Pacific side locks. We got out of the bus here and saw
displays about the expansion project, stats, facts and figures. Since we were at the end of the locks, we could see down into the canal expansion itself.
After snapping a few pictures,
I boarded a bus and we headed back along the locks and this time, it turned right and we headed down into the canal itself.
As we drove, the walls got higher and higher and when the bus stopped, we were in the 3rd level of the canal expansion project!!!
We walked along the 98 foot high concrete wall past the water ports that are large enough to drive a car into.
These ports will be used to let water in and out of the canal. We walked over the trenches where the new gates will roll to open and close
and then around and up close to the new gates themselves.
Just to give you a sense of how big this job is, the new expansion is 60% larger than the current Panama Canal. The channel itself has 98 foot high concrete walls and is 180 feet wide. There are a total of 16 gates, 188 feet long and 30 feet wide. They range in height from 73 feet to 109 feet tall. A lock in the current canal is 998 feet long. A lock in the expansion is 2,057 feet long.
I made my way back toward where the buses were picking people up
and stopped to look back to the tents at our first stop of the day. People were taking pictures every where they could for this historic event.
Those are full size buses parked against the wall of the canal. I boarded a bus and it took me out of the project and back to the parking lot to my waiting wife.
I believe on this day, there were some 30,000 people who came to see the new expansion project. The weekend after the expansion would host the general public and even larger crowds.
Below I have added a link to the first water going into the Atlantic side of the Expansion Project.