One of the world’s most famous waterways is getting an upgrade. The Panama Canal—a human-made waterway linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans—is undergoing a massive expansion. Set for completion in 2014, the project will double the size of the canal. This will allow more, and bigger, ships to pass through.
The U.S. built the Panama Canal in 1914 to shorten the trip between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Before the canal was built, a ship would need to travel around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America to get from one U.S. coast to the other. Without the canal, a trip from New York to Los Angeles would take an extra 8,000 miles!
To pass through the canal, ships must travel through a series of locks. The locks work as water elevators that raise and lower the ships. These locks are needed because the Pacific Ocean is a little higher than the Atlantic Ocean. As traffic has increased in the waterway over the years, ships must often wait in line for hours, and sometimes days, to pass through these locks. The expansion project will install more locks to help ease traffic.
Today, cargo ships that cannot fit through the canal go to ports on the west coast of the U.S. The goods are then shipped by trains and trucks around the country. Shipping by trains and trucks is more costly. Once the Panama Canal expansion is complete, larger ships will be able to travel to ports along the east coast of the U.S. Experts believe this will make it cheaper to move goods from Asia to the East Coast. More ships will also mean more jobs in port cities from New York City to Miami.
Ricky Kunz, an official with the Port of Houston, told Fox News, “Everyone is going to share a little bit more in the wealth.”