The Panama Canal Expansion Project

In this month's editorial column, Ryan Olson, shares his experience visiting the site where a third set of locks are being constructed at the Panama Canal.

In May, I was invited to visit the Panama Canal Expansion project and take a tour of the site. The reality of standing in the presence of an engineering marvel was awe-inspiring. I was visiting the Atlantic Ocean side of the canal, located in Colon, Panama. During the site visit, I ended up standing on the shores of Gatun Lake, trying to comprehend the reality of where and what I was doing.

There was a lot of activity during my visit. Trucks were hauling away debris. I heard jackhammers chipping away at concrete in the distance. The sights and sounds were overwhelming and yet, standing on the floor of the third set of locks and looking up at the massive concrete walls was breathtaking. I found myself to be confounded and speechless.

About half way through my site visit, my guide, Alex Sanchez, turned to me and asked, “So what do you think?”

With a deep breath and wry smile, all I could muster, “I’m not really sure what to think. I don’t think the gravity of this situation has hit me yet.”

My comment garnered a few laughs and the following response, “Yeah, it happens. Your reaction seems to be the reaction most people have when they come to see this. Don’t worry, your airplane will land back in the United States. You’ll arrive at your home, and it will hit you. You will realize what you saw here. And you’ll never forget it.”

He was right.

During my visit, I was able to have discussions throughout the day which included such topics as labor relations, training, local customs, Panamanian politics, and the general day-to-day lives of contractors living and working in Panama. The recurring theme of these topics always came back to one phrase — “Panama, it’s a tough place to work.” Changing weather patterns, high heat and humidity, and a daily dose of rain in the afternoon makes for some interesting and challenging conditions for contractors.

We hope you enjoy the coverage of this dynamic and ever changing project. Visit the “Concrete” channel on You’ll be able to see the story of this project in pictures, Additionally, check out the video, where you'll take a ride with me through the canal, which can be found here –


On a side note, in May we conducted a Reader Survey. I’d like to say thank you to those of you who took the time to take the survey and let your voice be heard. In exchange for taking the survey we chose two random winners to receive a $100 American Express Gift Card.

Congratulations to Scott Schwebe of  LSK – Columbia, Mo. and Steve Sweet of Calumet Civil Contractors, Whitestown, Ind.