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Panama Canal Turns 100, Amid Setbacks To Its Expansion

The 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal's opening Friday takes place as the engineering feat's multibillion-dollar expansion - which was originally slated to be completed by the anniversary - has been postponed for later this year.

The construction of the 48-mile ship canal across the Isthmus of Panama transformed international trade, greatly reducing travel time between the Atlantic and the Pacific by eliminating the need for ships to go around the tip of South America.

Panama $5.25 billion expansion will include wider locks with mechanical gates to reduce congestion and be able accommodate post-Panamex vessels. These are as long as three football fields and can carry about 2.5 times the number of containers held now.

The delays have included cost overruns and a recent job stoppage by workers.

Canal administrator Jorge Quijano said he would have liked to finish the expansion in time for Friday's centennial, "but we knew from the beginning a project as complex as this wouldn't necessarily be done" on time."

The canal's completed expansion is now scheduled for October or later.

--The Associated Press