How long does
to build a bridge? Only time will tell
bridge builders can be creative risk-takers
(January 2010) For months now, consultants
for the Milton-Madison Bridge Project have been touting a superstructure
replacement onto the existing piers as a nine to 12 month process. That
is the projected time period they say the bridge would actually be shut
down. Meantime, they would spend $5.6 million on a two-vessel ferry
service to run 24 hours a day across the Ohio River from Milton to Madison.
Optimists creative engineers mostly say it could
be done in much shorter time; pessimists most of the general
public expect it to take much longer.
But project manager John Carr of Wilbur Smith Associates Inc., the lead
consultant on the Milton-Madison Bridge Project, said he expects very
creative bids from several companies who need the work and are willing
to take a financial risk to finish the job in less than nine months.
Once the $95 million federal stimulus funds are secured in late January
expected by some to be almost certain Carrs
group plans to move quickly to develop the bid package and release it
by March in hopes of selecting a company by May. He says the winning
bid must meet all the requirements of the package but can be very creative
in how quickly the project can be completed. In fact, premiums will
be paid on a daily basis for completing it more quickly.
That sounds good to commuters who rely on the 3/4-mile long span to
get to work or school each day. It also sounds good to merchants and
trucking companies who rely on the bridge for their commercial livelihoods.
But who really knows?
provided by Skanksa USA
1,600-ft section of the George
P. Coleman Bridge across Virginias York
River took only nine days to replace.
Because of the poor economy, a lot of bridge builders
are looking for work right now, and I expect to see a lot of creativity
when it comes to bidding this project, he said. He added that
state regulations require taking the lowest bid, as long as it conforms
to all the requirements of the bid package.
Any bid that fails to meet even one requirement will be tossed
out. There will be a value placed on each day the bridge is completed
ahead of schedule, Carr said.
According to engineers who worked on another bridge replacement project
in 1995 in Virginia, the Milton-Madison Bridge superstructure replacement
could actually be completed in matter of days or weeks. Not months.
It took Skanska USA Civil Southeast bridge builders in Virginia Beach,
Va., only nine days to replace a 1,600-foot swing section of the George
P. Coleman Bridge that crosses the York River in Yorktown, Va.
The two projects are similar in that the Coleman project also replaced
a two-lane bridge with a four-lane bridge on existing piers. Everything
superstructure, roadway and light poles were lifted into
place during the nine-day bridge closure.
Can such a thing occur here?
It (Milton-Madison Bridge) can be done (in a shorter time than
nine months), said Mark Apaliski, Skanskas senior estimator
who worked on the Coleman Bridge replacement project for the Virginia
Department of Transportation. But the trick is, you have to build
it off site and you have to have the right factors to make it all work.
Granted, the new portion of the Coleman Bridge is not as long as the
3,184-foot long Milton-Madison Bridge, however, Skanska built six sections
weighing 4,000 tons each at Norfolk Harbor, then floated the sections
40 miles, across the Chesapeake Bay, to the bridge site and then, using
floating cranes, lifted the sections into place, 90 feet above the water.
Quite an engineering feat, when you consider that the Coleman Bridge
provides crossing for 27,000 vehicles a day, compared to the 10,000
vehicles that cross here. The 80-year-old Milton-Madison Bridge has
a current elevation of 95 feet but the elevation of the proposed new
bridge is 90 feet.
Those factors to which Apaliski referred included weather,
river elevation, flooding, depth, wind and enough room on the water
to turn and lift the structure into place. It would also have to fit
through the locks or dam en route to the site.
The Coleman Bridge replacement project cost $76 million but that was
15 years ago; by comparison, the Milton-Madison Bridge Project is estimated
at $131 million.
Nevertheless, bridge engineers these days can be creative and many are
risk-takers, Carr said. Asked about the Coleman Bridge example, Carr
said: While some of the geography and site location characteristics
between the two projects are dramatically different, this is a very
good example of how innovative that bridge construction contractors
can be when offered incentives to complete a project. Some of the lessons
learned by Virginia Department of Transportation will certainly
be applicable to the Milton-Madison Bridge.
However, Carr added: But contractors must deal with all sorts
of potential problems bad weather, flooding, damage to the
barge, damaging a pier, dropping a truss, Coast Guard clearance to close
the river while the job is being done...
Such challenges only excite bridge engineers, who are always seeking
the kind of project that will make their career, Apaliski said. His
company built the original Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel in Virginia
and Charleston, S.C.s Cooper River Bridge, the longest stay cable
bridge in the Northern Hemisphere. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel
is considered one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.
You pay a premium for doing it faster, he said. Although
his company does not do work in the Midwest, he added: It is a
possibility (for a bridge builder here) to look at.
He even suggested another way to do the job which involves erecting
two false support works across the river and building the new superstructure
on top of one. Then lift the old structure onto the other false works
and place the new superstructure onto the existing piers.
Either way, the example of Virginias Coleman Bridge bodes well
for a quick end to the challenge of solving the regions critical
crossing between Milton and Madison.
Did I mention it only took them nine days? Thats a bridge closure
we could all live with.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner
of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.
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