Panama making way for big expansion

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama blasted away part of a hillside next to the canal on Monday, marking the start of the waterway’s biggest expansion since it opened 93 years ago.

In the presence of former President Carter, who signed the 1977 treaty that gave Panama control of the waterway, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos celebrated the start of construction on two wider sets of locks being added to both sides of the canal.

“We are witnesses to an exceptional and unique act,” Torrijos said moments after the explosion sent up a curtain of smoke and water.

The $5.25 billion expansion is expected to double the 50-mile canal’s capacity and lower the price of consumer goods on the East Coast of the United States by allowing wider vessels to squeeze through with more cargo.

About two-thirds of the cargo that passed through the canal is headed to or from the United States.

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