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Old 11-01-2019, 02:14 PM
 
Location: Howard County, Maryland
6,026 posts, read 3,868,146 times
Reputation: 17338

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Of course, I know that such a thing already exists: the Erie Canal. But the Erie Canal cannot accommodate ocean-going cargo ships; and even if it could, its path is hardly a straight one. There's also the St. Lawrence Seaway, but that is much more out of the way for shipping approaching the U.S. east coast from most directions.

Would it make economic sense to construct a canal that would follow a more direct route, and could handle larger ships, between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes? Just eyeballing a map, it looks like the shortest, most direct routes would be either from New York to Buffalo via Scranton, or Baltimore to Cleveland via Pittsburgh. The straight line distance on either of these routes would be approximately 300 miles, as opposed to the roughly 500 mile route of the Hudson River and Erie Canal, or the much longer route via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Yes, I know about the mountainous terrain in this region. (There's a reason why the Erie Canal took the path that it did.) No doubt, building such a canal would be a daunting engineering challenge. And it wouldn't be cheap.

My question is, would it be worth it? Would the economic benefit of dramatically shortening the travel times for larger cargo ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes justify the cost?
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Old 11-01-2019, 02:22 PM
Status: "Bostonian in Baltimore" (set 15 days ago)
 
Location: Baltimore
3,124 posts, read 1,673,231 times
Reputation: 2719
seems a little 20th century like.
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Old 11-01-2019, 02:27 PM
 
2,217 posts, read 723,997 times
Reputation: 1857
It would not be worth it.

The huge cost of such a venture would have to be amortized over decades and decades, and honestly over that time period so much could change that would render the canal obsolete.
  • Falling population reduces need for goods.
  • Population shifts to the sunbelt accomplish the same but local to the Great Lakes region.
  • Manufacturing technology shifts to favor local production over global shipping.

The St .Lawrence Seaway accomplishes what you want, and a proposed expansion of it to handle Panamax vessels has already been scrapped because of budgetary concerns. In other words, even the incremental version of what you are proposing is not cost effective.
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Old 11-01-2019, 05:25 PM
 
Location: Cleveland
660 posts, read 363,603 times
Reputation: 940
Quote:
Originally Posted by bus man View Post
Of course, I know that such a thing already exists: the Erie Canal. But the Erie Canal cannot accommodate ocean-going cargo ships; and even if it could, its path is hardly a straight one. There's also the St. Lawrence Seaway, but that is much more out of the way for shipping approaching the U.S. east coast from most directions.

Would it make economic sense to construct a canal that would follow a more direct route, and could handle larger ships, between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes? Just eyeballing a map, it looks like the shortest, most direct routes would be either from New York to Buffalo via Scranton, or Baltimore to Cleveland via Pittsburgh. The straight line distance on either of these routes would be approximately 300 miles, as opposed to the roughly 500 mile route of the Hudson River and Erie Canal, or the much longer route via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Yes, I know about the mountainous terrain in this region. (There's a reason why the Erie Canal took the path that it did.) No doubt, building such a canal would be a daunting engineering challenge. And it wouldn't be cheap.

My question is, would it be worth it? Would the economic benefit of dramatically shortening the travel times for larger cargo ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes justify the cost?
Heavy cargo by ship is all about fuel economy, not time. These goods are always subject to a pipeline delay as it were, its something that gets accounted for in the distribution chain and is accepted for heavy goods. The seaway and Welland canal are perfectly acceptable.

Lighter goods have highway and railroad, which also compete for heavy goods, as does real pipeline BTW. The Great Lakes region also has other waterways that compete for heavy goods, such as the Ohio and Mississippi River systems.
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Old 11-01-2019, 06:13 PM
 
591 posts, read 198,284 times
Reputation: 542
Quote:
Originally Posted by bus man View Post
Of course, I know that such a thing already exists: the Erie Canal. But the Erie Canal cannot accommodate ocean-going cargo ships; and even if it could, its path is hardly a straight one. There's also the St. Lawrence Seaway, but that is much more out of the way for shipping approaching the U.S. east coast from most directions.

Would it make economic sense to construct a canal that would follow a more direct route, and could handle larger ships, between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes? Just eyeballing a map, it looks like the shortest, most direct routes would be either from New York to Buffalo via Scranton, or Baltimore to Cleveland via Pittsburgh. The straight line distance on either of these routes would be approximately 300 miles, as opposed to the roughly 500 mile route of the Hudson River and Erie Canal, or the much longer route via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

My question is, would it be worth it? Would the economic benefit of dramatically shortening the travel times for larger cargo ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes justify the cost?
Theres no economic benefit especially when the Mississippi & St. Laurence essentially does just that.

In regards to expanding the Erie, the new post panamax ships are 1300' feet long, 180' feet wide and have a draft of 50'... good luck lol

Distance/fuel economy is everything when it comes to shipping so they try to bring the ship as close to physically possible to the final destination while spending the least amount of fuel so in that context Baltimore is the closest major container port to the midwest (it's closer to Buffalo then NYC is) but because the Howard Street Tunnel is literally a chokepoint for the entire eastern seaboard (it cannot support freight train double stacking) it greatly diminishes the ports efficiency so ships usually hit Hampton Roads or NYC instead.

Last edited by Joakim3; 11-01-2019 at 06:25 PM..
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Old 11-03-2019, 11:47 PM
 
1,875 posts, read 3,517,310 times
Reputation: 2209
Quote:
Originally Posted by bus man View Post
Of course, I know that such a thing already exists: the Erie Canal. But the Erie Canal cannot accommodate ocean-going cargo ships; and even if it could, its path is hardly a straight one. There's also the St. Lawrence Seaway, but that is much more out of the way for shipping approaching the U.S. east coast from most directions.
St. Lawrence Seaway provides the water route from Great Lakes to the rest of the world. I don’t think there’s much need for waterborne freight between the Great Lakes and the US east coast. They can load cargo ships in Duluth for transport to wherever the freight is going. No need to ship by barge to New York or Newport News and then transfer to another ship to cross the ocean. Domestic freight can travel by rail. The canals were supplanted by the railroads beginning 1840 or so, no need to revisit that transition that I can think of.
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:03 PM
 
Location: Somewhere below Mason/Dixon
6,820 posts, read 7,708,801 times
Reputation: 11364
I seriously doubt a project like this is possible. The significant terrain that would have to be traversed seems impossible to construct a canal through. This is a mountain range we are talking about, physics just gets in the way here. The amount of locks and pumps required would make it economically not feasible.

As others have stated the saint Laurence seaway already provides easy shipping and transport out of the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean. I can’t imagine improving on what is already there.
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:54 PM
Status: "The collective consience doesn't like detail" (J L Burke)" (set 29 days ago)
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,668 posts, read 7,774,618 times
Reputation: 16458
The Erie Canal (long since "rescued" by public operation and incorporated the New York State Barge Canal system) has a very long and very checkered history. Originally conceived and publicly financed in the 1820's, it achieved phenomenal success in its early years. but soon faced competitive pressures due to the rapid development of the railroads and other forms of competition. and its pursuit of assistance and protection via legislation and government interference complicated the picture much further -- as it has until the present day, and will likely continue to do so.

When I visited the canal's historic site at Lockport in 2017, as I had at a lock at Canajoharie some years before, barge-load freight traffic was down to about two to five moves per year, A commercial tour boat had also previously operated on (DeWitt) "Clinton's Ditch", but was apparently no longer in service. The elaborate system of locks, manned by unionized employees remained, but geared to private pleasure craft served mostly on weekends, holidays, and in the summers. And the expensive pension system survived, merged with the parallel New York State Thruway Commission in order to reduce duplication of overhead.

In short, the entire project has devolved into an expensive boondoggle -- necessary, perhaps, in a handful of limited situations, but operated and perpetuated with the concerns of everyone but the taxpayer in mind.
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Old Today, 11:07 PM
 
Location: Beautiful and sanitary DC
1,555 posts, read 2,242,906 times
Reputation: 1525
Heck, the St. Lawrence Seaway is operating about 25% below its initial volumes.
https://www.everycrsreport.com/repor...#_Toc465335499
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