Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/435

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431
THE TYPE OF THE PANAMA CANAL
entitled "An act to provide for the construction of a canal connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans," approved June 28, 1902.

It has already been stated that the minority of the board of engineers recommended that the locks be made 95 feet wide with a usable length of 900 feet. The canal commission determined that larger locks would be desirable and fixed the width at 100 and the usable length at 1,000 feet. This action did not, however, satisfy the U. S. Navy. The question of still larger locks was agitated and resulted in action by the naval authorities upon whose suggestion it was finally decided to increase the width of the locks to 110 feet. The depth of water in the locks is to be about 41.5 feet; this will be the depth in fresh water which will be equivalent to 40 feet in salt water.

Since the final and specific approval of the lock-canal plan by Congress all the work on the isthmus has been directed to the rapid construction of this type of canal. Before presenting a few of the salient facts relating to the progress which has been made, a brief review will be given of the opinion expressed by some of the experts whose views were considered in reaching the conclusion that under all the circumstances it was best to build a lock canal.

It should be stated in this connection that the earlier conclusion of the Comité Technique, which was an advisory body to the New French Canal Company, favoring a lock canal, can be given hut little weight, as an influence upon the later conclusion, because the advice of that committee was given to a private company operating under a concession with a time limit, and it was compelled to give paramount weight to the financial aspect. A canal had to be built under restrictions of time and cost, and it was to be made a profitable venture. It is not surprising, therefore, that under the new conditions, one of the members of that committee, Mr. Hunter, is found in 1905, as already stated, among those who advocate the sea-level canal.

Mr. John F. Wallace, a past ])resident of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who was called from the position of chief engineer and manager of the Illinois Central Railroad to the position of chief engineer of the commission of 1904 and was later made a member of the commission of 1905, in addressing the board of consulting engineers pointed out:

That the most desirable transportation routes are straight and level. Variation from the ideal may become necessary to overcome obstacles of a physical, financial or other nature. The plan usually selected is the one in which the sum obtained by adding the interest on cost of construction to the annual cost of maintenance and operation is a minimum. In the case of the canal the feature of future development should not be overlooked and any variation from the ideal of a straight or sea-level canal should only be made after the most mature and careful consideration and for the gravest of reasons. Minor deflections from a straight line are comparatively immaterial as compared with variations of levels.