Canals were the routes of commerce in 1830. Shipping throughout the eastern United States moved via a network of canals that connected with navigable rivers to deliver goods and livestock to population centers. Rock Island, a new Illinois town on the Mississippi River, began looking east for a connection to Chicago and the Great Lakes. Building a canal network between Chicago and Rock Island could give the developed East access to the Mississippi and bring prosperity to the newly developing West. In 1891, Major W.L. Marshall of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, commanding officer of the project, had drawn plans for the right-of-way. Instead of conventional stone construction, he requested concrete for locks, dams, and viaducts. He argued that concrete appeared to be stronger, more durable, and less than half the price of cut stone. Marshall also pointed out that they could save enough money to pay for a 5-foot increase in the width of the locks, to 35 feet. On May 11, 1891, the Secretary of War granted permission to use concrete for the first time in U.S. canals. The pioneering use of portland cement concrete established a new method for constructing canals which later had a significant influence on the construction of the Panama Canal.