When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 it was hailed as one of the world’s most ambitious achievements in maritime infrastructure. Fifty years hence, that infrastructure has shown signs of age, prompting the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) to unveil in 2009 a forward-looking Asset Renewal Program (ARP). Similar to the Army Corps’ ARP for the Soo Locks, the SLSDC’s objectives were to identify and address pressing long-term needs for the U.S. portion of the Seaway infrastructure, including two locks, the Seaway International Bridge near Cornwall, Ontario, maintenance dredging, operational systems, and SLSDC facilities in Massena, New York. The program was deliberate in its commitment not to increase the authorized depth or width of the Seaway’s navigation channel, or the size of the two U.S. locks.
The SLSDC ARP was developed on the premise that a “perpetual infrastructure asset, such as a lock, requires a capital investment equivalent to its original cost over its design life, which is typically 50 years, in order to sustain itself.” The U.S. share of the Seaway’s construction cost was about $130 million in 1959 dollars, or about $1.1 billion today. Over the first ten years of the ARP, from 2009 to 2018, the SLSDC spent $152 million on some 50 projects, including such technologically innovative improvements as a hands-free mooring system to eventually be installed on both U.S. locks. Over the next five years, the SLSDC ARP proposes 58 more projects at an estimated cost of $83.7 million, dependent on annual U.S. Department of Transportation acceptance and federal budget appropriations.