• U.S.

World: A New Canal In Panama

2 minute read

FOR six years a special presidential commission studied possible routes for an Atlantic-Pacific waterway to replace the existing Panama Canal. A route along the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border looked appealing; so did one through Colombia. Last week, however, the commission recommended a 36-mile sea-level canal across Panama, only ten miles west of the present one. It will be able to accommodate all 150,000-ton ships as well as the U.S. Navy’s 60,000-ton Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, which are too wide for the present canal. The new canal will also have the potential to han dle 56,000 ships a year—twice today’s maximum volume.

The five-man commission, headed by former Secretary of the Treasury Robert B. Anderson, rejected the routes outside Panama because their length and terrain would have required nuclear excavation. Scientists have not been able to conduct such explosions without unacceptably high radiation. Construction by conventional means will take 14 years.

The physical problems pale alongside the political ones, which have been festering since Panama’s anti-American riots of 1964. While footing an estimated $2.9 billion construction bill, the U.S. will have to meet Panama’s demands for a bigger say in operating the new waterway—and a bigger share of the revenues.

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