$63M Goethals Bridge Rehabilitation Under Way

Tue August 09, 2005 - Northeast Edition
David S. Chartock

Until construction can begin on a new Goethals Bridge, a link over the Arthur Kill between Staten Island, NY, and Elizabeth, NJ, the existing 8,600-ft. long (2,621.2 m), four-lane bridge will undergo a $63-million rehabilitation.

The existing bridge is a shorter version and a twin bridge of the nearby Outerbridge Crossing. It was designed by Alexander Waddel and was opened to traffic on June 29, 1928. The bridge was named after Major General George W. Goethals, designer of the Panama Canal and the first consulting engineering to the Port Authority of NY&NJ.

The existing bridge, which has a capacity of only four 10-ft. wide (3 m) lanes of traffic and carries approximately 75,000 vehicles a day as part of Interstate 78, is now considered to have limitations, making it an unreliable link in the region’s transportation network.

For example, the existing 10-ft. wide lanes are considered too narrow when compared with current design standards that call for 12-ft. wide (3.6 m) lanes, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Furthermore, the existing bridge has no emergency shoulders, and automobile and truck traffic across the bridge is increasing.

Trucks inhibit the flow of traffic because the average truck cab width is 8.5 ft. (2.6 m) in a traffic lane that is no more than 10 ft. wide. This results in deteriorating traffic conditions and higher accident rates than on the nearby Outerbridge Crossing. In addition, the layout of the current bridge limits the extent to which traffic flows can be improved with the use of E-Z Pass technology.

A new $350-million bridge is planned. Until construction can begin on that bridge, the existing bridge, labeled “functionally obsolete” on nycroads.com by Ernesto L. Butcher, the Port Authority’s director of bridges and tunnels, is being rehabilitated.

In fact, the rehabilitation of the structural steel and sidewalk replacement of the Goethals Bridge began in April 2004

Included in the project’s scope of work will be removal of the asphalt, partial deck repairs on the top and bottom of the bridge, removal and replacement of the existing barrier and sidewalks, removal and replacement of all road deck replacement joints and drainage scuppers, and performing various repairs to the bridge’s structural steel.

Work also will include installation of a waterproofing membrane and repaving after the partial roadway decks repairs are completed, according to Ed Malinowski, a project manager of Kiska Construction Corp., the project’s Long Island City, NY-based general contractor.

Work on a bridge that must remain operational can prove challenging. Therefore, to minimize disruption to bridge traffic, work is performed from 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m.

“The challenge is to complete the daily scheduled work within those hours. Many operations can take three or four nights, which means metal road plates have to be installed, presently, over the work area of the two westbound lanes each day so the bridge can be reopened to traffic. Then, before work can begin again the next night, the steel road plates have to be removed,” Malinowski said.

To facilitate the daily installation and removal of these steel plates, a removable steel road plate system was developed by Kiska Construction. This system consists of 1.5-in. (3.8 cm) thick, high-strength, 5-ft. (1.5 m) square steel plates.

“We drill through the roadway deck and bolt the steel plates down from underneath,” he said.

For work under the bridge, Malinowski said Kiska Construction installed a “solid plywood platform under the bridge to perform the required structural steel and roadway deck repairs under the bridge.”

Another challenge faced by the project team is the replacement of 240 triangular-shaped steel sidewalk brackets. To accomplish this task, Malinowski said Kiska Construction “devised a jacking system that holds up the steel members, the supporting sidewalks and a roadway stringer. The jacking system allows us to remove and replace each bracket.”

He added that this jacking system consists of a steel-membered platform and hydraulic jacks.

Continuing, Malinowski said, logistics also pose a challenge to the project team because “We have two lanes in which to work at any given time. And, multiple operations have to be performed on a given night.”

In fact, sometimes there are as many as 10 different operations that need to be coordinated and executed in a single night. These 10 operations include roadway deck repairs, waterproofing, paving, scupper demolition, installation of new scuppers, sidewalk bracket removal and replacement, barrier and sidewalk demolition, installation of new barriers and sidewalks, joint expansion demolition and milling.

To coordinate and perform all of these operations each night requires careful planning, coordination and execution of all facets of the operation, he explained.

Each aspect of a given night’s work requires different equipment. For example, he said, jackhammers are used for deck repairs, while a subcontractor using specialized equipment does the waterproofing. Another subcontractor, with its own equipment, does the paving, he added.

Jackhammers also are being used to demolish the existing scuppers, after which, ironworkers install the new scuppers by hand, he noted.

In addition, a Z-mixer from Zimmerman is being used for the sidewalk work. The Z-mixer, he explained, mixes the concrete, cement, stone and water and cures it in three hours. This allows traffic to travel over it in the morning.

The new sidewalks consist of precast, reinforced concrete made at New Jersey Precast in North Brunswick, NJ. The expansion joints, which Malinowski said are made in Buffalo, NY. “are cast right into the concrete.” Malinowski added that there is another subcontractor, with its own milling machine, that does the milling for the project.

Other equipment that is being used on this project includes a Caterpillar forklift, dump trucks and articulating boom cranes for material handling at the job site.

Malinowski also noted that Kiska Construction holds project team meetings every two weeks to update team members on the project and discuss new solutions to project challenges as they arise. The project team includes the Port Authority of NY&NJ, the project’s New York City-based owner and developer.

The project is on budget and on time and is expected to be completed by November 2006. CEG