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.