New Soo lock should be top priority

To the Journal editor:

With every new presidential administration comes a new opportunity for high-profile projects to receive attention and funding. With President Trump, one of his priorities is to increase infrastructure funding and that should be welcomed news for the people and economy of the state of Michigan.

One project that state officials are lobbying for in particular is construction of a new Soo lock. Currently, four locks are operational, but only one lock is large enough to handle larger vessels (which include over 60% of the ships that utilize the locks). This lock, known as the Poe Lock, is aging and is expected to be closed more frequently for repairs in the near future.

According to a new report from the U.S. Treasury, closures at the Poe Luck put the transportation of over 40 million tons of coal and iron ore at risk. Without the coal and iron ore that travels through the Soo, as well as other goods, manufacturers throughout the Great Lakes region would be left helpless. Energy costs would increase, jobs would be lost, and the economy of our region would collapse.

Another report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security paints an even grimmer picture. It states that if the Poe Lock was to close for six months, the nation would plunge into a recession, with $1.1 trillion of economic output lost, and nearly 11 million jobs cut. Auto manufacturers would not have enough materials to build cars, steel mills would be shuttered, and construction projects would be halted. The Soo Locks economic impact goes well beyond the state of Michigan.

The question now facing our elected officials is the cost of the lock. It is estimated that it would take nearly $600 million to update existing locks and fully construct a new lock, which is a huge sum of money.

However, this move would generate $1.7 billion in new economic activity for our state and region. I ask all elected leaders in our state and nation to make a new Soo lock a priority — our national economy depends on it.

Jake Putala