’Bridge in the Bathtub’ Moves Ahead for 2009 Completion

Wed November 19, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson



The main east-west corridor between New York and Chicago is I-80 through northern Ohio. It boasts the third busiest truck traffic in the United States. Average daily traffic exceeds 65,000 vehicles per day, with approximately 45 percent of that being truck traffic. A 20-year projection is 80,000 vehicles per day.

Groundbreaking took place in April 2006 for a $91.5 million Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project to replace the antiquated twin I-80/Meander Creek Reservoir bridges and several miles of freeway from SR 46 to the Ohio Turnpike and on to the I-80/SR 11 interchange in Austintown Township, in northern Ohio.

Prime contractor is Anthony Allega Cement Contractor Inc./The Great Lakes Construction Co. Joint Venture. Bridge work on the $91.5 million project is being done by Great Lakes Construction of Hinkley. Jeremy Levenson is the project manager. Bob Kondas is the project manager for Anthony Allega Cement Contracting of Valley View, which is doing the mainline paving.

“The concrete pavement on I-80 westbound from the east end of the project to the Meander bridges was completed in 2008. Pile driving and placement of concrete bridge beams for the I-80 westbound bridge over Meander Reservoir was completed in 2008. Completion of the concrete pavement as well as the bridge on I-80 westbound will occur in 2009,” said Paula Putnam, ODOT District 4 spokesperson.

According to Putnam, a $43 million portion of the I-80 project yet to be completed involves replacing one of the antiquated twin 2,500-ft.-long (762 m) bridges that spanned Meander Creek Reservoir, the primary drinking water source for 300,000 residents in Niles, Youngstown, Austintown, Canfield, Girard and portions of Boardman in Trumball, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

The new bridges will have a uniquely designed spill containment system. “This entire project is aimed at making the bridge safer, both for traffic and the environment,” said Putnam.

Each of the old bridges consisted of two 12-ft. (3.6 m) wide lanes in each direction, with 2-ft. (0.6 m) shoulders. The new structures will be 2,522 ft. (768 m) long and 61 ft. (18.5 m) wide, allowing for additional lanes and full 12-ft. shoulders. After the new eastbound bridge was built to the south of the existing eastbound structure, the two functionally obsolete bridges were removed.

“The eastbound lanes were completed in 2007, and we’ve started on the westbound lanes,” said Justin Chesnic, ODOT district 4 public information specialist. “They’re going to continue to set the concrete beams through the winter, and the pavement will be finished up by next year.”

Funding for this project was provided through Ohio’s Jobs and Progress plan, part of a $5 billion, 10-year plan that began under the direction of former Gov. Bob Taft.

The Jobs and Progress plan was designed to rebuild Ohio’s highway network, address high-crash and congested locations and to complete the state’s rural macro-corridors.

“With the community and traveling public in mind, ODOT worked with local officials and emergency responders to design this project to achieve everyone’s goals,” said former ODOT Director Gordon Proctor. “I am proud to say that with everyone’s cooperation, we were able to design a project that will improve safety for the traveling public as well as for the drinking water in the reservoir below.

The bridge portion of this project also includes replacement of the bridges at North Turner, Ohltown and North Lipkey roads.

“The new westbound structure is being constructed in the location of the old westbound structure. To accomplish this without impeding traffic on the existing interstate, construction crews work from multiple barge operations leapfrogging across the reservoir,” said Putnam.

All of the pile driving is complete and more than 17 mi. (27.4 km) of piling was driven to support the two bridges. The piles had to be driven through soft muck, silt, clay, sandstone and stopped in or near bedrock. Each bridge structure is comprised of 20 piers and two abutments.

A Manitowoc 888, 230-ton (208 t) capacity crawler crane is the center of the pile driving barge. The most critical equipment decision was choosing the right pile hammer for the project’s environmental concerns. Air and diesel hammers were quickly eliminated due to the exhaust emissions, leaving a hydraulic hammer as a remaining option. After careful study of a wave analysis performed on several hydraulic hammers by GeoDrive Technology in Holland, Great Lakes Construction decided to use an IHC S-90 Hydrohammer with a P-250 Power pack.

The Meander Creek Reservoir and surrounding properties are owned, maintained, and patrolled by The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District (MVSD). The MVSD is holding the contractors to a strict set of environmental guidelines.

To preserve the water quality during construction, Great Lakes Construction is using biodegradable hydraulic fluid and vegetable based oils in the equipment operating on or near the reservoir. Also, an oil containment boom has been placed in the lake to the north and to the south of the construction area, stretching from the east bank to the west bank, essentially creating a “bridge in the bathtub” effect, a term coined by former ODOT Director Gordon Proctor.

According to Tom Holloway, chief engineer for MVSD, the booms are only the latest step taken by the contractor to preserve and protect the reservoir.

ODOT designed this project to prohibit the contractors from disrupting traffic on the existing bridges during construction. This required the work to be executed from barges. Sectional barges were the most logical option because the reservoir is landlocked, according to Putnam. Various size sectionals were both purchased and rented for the project. The rental units came from Shugart Manufacturing in Chester, S.C.

The different barge configurations were determined based on the crane sizes, construction materials, and other required equipment. Maximum load pick radii and allowable crane lists were also contributing factors. Dejong and Lebet Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., provided all necessary barge design calculations.

An access dock was constructed with 35-ft. (10.6 m) long PZC-18 sheets, driven by an ICE 44-50 vibratory hammer and supported with tie rods at the west shore. Great Lakes Construction designed the sheet wall to support a Manitowoc 2250, 300 ton (272 t) capacity crane, the largest piece of equipment that would walk across the wall onto a barge. The entire barge loading operation takes place at this sheet wall, including all the piles that were shipped out to the pile driving crane, the concrete and rebar trucks, and the 126 6-ft. (1.8 m) tall, 120-ft. (36.5 m) long, 60 ton (54 t) pre-stressed concrete I-beams on transportation trucks, according to an ODOT press release.

A Manitowoc 2900 crane barge installed and removed the pile drive frame and template, and also placed rebar cages and concrete in the piles. Two drive frames were designed and fabricated internally by Great Lakes Construction prior to mobilization. These templates were supported by 18-in. (45.7 cm) OD spud piles and HP14 strut beams. Survey crews were then able to locate the template within .5 in. (1.3 cm) of plan location and elevation.

The piers were designed with plumb and battered (3:12 and 2:12) piles. Trumpet plates with pile sleeves were fabricated so the appropriate batters could easily be obtained. Once the trumpet plate was pinned to the template, the pile could be threaded through the sleeve and driven in the proper location and batter.

The old bridges were flat with two lanes in each direction and free-drop scuppers that drained directly into the reservoir.

The new bridges have three lanes in each direction and a full 12-ft. (3.7 m) shoulder on each side, which improves safety. They slope toward the abutments and have no scuppers. Now, all the runoff from the bridges enters into spill containment systems, where any hazardous spills can be treated before they contaminate the reservoir.

“It’s the first [system] of its kind in Ohio,” said Chesnic. “The spill-contaminant system will allow any spilled chemicals to drain into a ditch, giving emergency crews a 30-minute window to contain it before it filters into the reservoir,” he said.

As safety measures, crossovers built to maintain traffic during construction will be left in place permanently to be used in the event of an emergency. The crossovers will allow ODOT to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction on I-80 if a spill or crash results in the closure of one of the bridges.

“It looks like all delays have passed, and the rest of the construction process should run smoothly. The bridge is all we have left to do,” said Joe Alfano, ODOT project engineer. “We expect traffic to be unchanged until the final movement, possibly in June [2009].”

“Having grown up in this area, I have seen the volumes of traffic increase over the years — especially truck traffic. Widening I-80 and the Meander bridges has been needed for a while. It is great being a part of such a large construction project that uses new construction techniques and designs,” said Alfano. CEG