Panama Canal begins historic expansion

Tuesday, September 04 2007 @ 04:28 PM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

A ship in the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal
A ship in the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal
( AP) -- PANAMA CITY, Panama - A 93-year-old engineering marvel is getting a major overhaul -- and it could lead to cheaper goods in the U.S. Crews have blasted through the hillside next to the Panama Canal, marking the start of the waterway's biggest expansion since it opened in 1914. Former President Jimmy Carter, who signed the 1977 treaty giving Panama control of the U.S.-conceived canal, was at the celebration for the five-and-a-quarter-billion-dollar project. It's expected to double the 50-mile canal's capacity. The improvements could lower the price of goods on the East Coast, because the U.S. accounts for two-thirds of the cargo that passes through the canal. China is the second-largest user. Panama also hopes the improvements will increase revenues, allowing it to pay back some of its debt and battle poverty that affects some 40% of the population.

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