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Contractors ’Shoulder’ Georgia Interstate-16 Widening Project

Mon July 30, 2001 - Southeast Edition
G.W. Hall

Rogers Bridge Company Inc. and Mitchell Construction Co. Inc. of Atlanta, GA, have teamed up to complete a $27.9-million bridge and shoulder widening project along Interstate 16 in Laurens and Treutlen counties. Reeves Construction of East Dublin, GA, also plays a key role in the effort as the project’s paving contractor.

Other key figures in the project include Heath & Lineback, which serves as the consulting engineering firm to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). Michael Schriver, area engineer for GDOT, also keeps a watchful eye on the activities of everyone involved in the process.

“The project includes 7.91 km of bridge construction along a 21-mi. stretch of Interstate 16 near Dublin, GA,” said Cecil Pearce, president of Rogers Bridge Company. “The project includes widening nine double bridges, as well as shoulder and ramp widening.”

The joint venture partners divided up responsibility for the bridge work after receiving authorization from the GDOT in January 2000. Rogers Bridge Company took on the responsibility of completing work on the bridges at Turkey Creek, Mercer Creek and Oconee River overflows channels one and two, as well as a span across the Georgia Central Railroad. Crews from Mitchell Construction, meanwhile, accepted the tasks of widening the main span across the Oconee River overflow bridges three and four, and the bridge at Pughes Creek. The companies chose Freddy Sumner to serve as project manager to coordinate the overall operation.

Rogers Bridge Company and Mitchell Construction then moved rapidly to assemble the crews necessary to tackle the job.

“Rogers Bridge Company usually had 30 to 35 employees at the bridge construction sites,” said Don Rogers vice president and general superintendent of Rogers Bridge Company. “Most of the time, we had three crews assigned to the bridges. Occasionally we had four and, by the time we finish, we will have only two down there.”

“Mitchell Construction had 30 workers, myself included, assigned to its part of the project,” Sumner said. “At one point, we had 40 employees working at one time.”

Equipment for the Job

The companies also assigned an impressive fleet of equipment to the project. The machinery utilized in widening the bridges included 13 cranes, two personnel lifts, four bulldozers, five excavators and four loaders.

“You can’t get the job done if you don’t have the right tools,” Pearce said.

The fleet of cranes provided by Rogers Bridge Company included three 75-ton (67.5 t) Link-Belt LS-138 models, a 50-ton (45 t) Link-Belt LS-118 model, a 50-ton (45 t) American 5299, a 50-ton (45 t) Link-Belt 1050 hydraulic crane, an older Link-Belt crane equipped with a crusher, and an even older Bucyrus model. The company obtained its newer Link-Belt equipment from Owsley Equipment Company, and acquired the American equipment from M.D. Moody & Sons, which was previously known as R.S. Armstrong.

Mitchell Construction provided a Link-Belt 418, Kobelco BM 700, a P&H 650 ATC, an American 5300, a 28-ton (25.2 t) P&H Century, a Link-Belt LS-118, and a Tadano CX 300.

The remaining equipment supplied by Rogers Bridge Company included a Komatsu rubber tire front-end loader a Caterpillar IT18 rubber tire front-end loader two Caterpillar D3 dozers, a Caterpillar 931 front end loader and a Caterpillar 416B backhoe loader. The company obtained its Caterpillar equipment from Yancey Brothers, Atlanta, GA.

Additional equipment supplied by Mitchell Construction included a Case 450C dozer a John Deere 310C loader, and an IHI 18J mini-excavator. Mitchell obtained its equipment from M.D. Moody & Sons, Dozier Crane, Hertz Equipment and Moresman & Brooks.

Challenges on Site

This equipment helped the joint venture partners overcome a variety of unique challenges at each bridge site. Because of the sensitive wetlands surrounding the projects, construction teams had to begin by installing extensive erosion control barriers around each work zone. Demolishing the sides of existing bridges also proved extremely challenging, largely due to the heavy traffic that travels along Interstate 16

“The old bridges are extremely narrow, so we had to close one lane of traffic while we demolished the existing bridge walls at each span,” Sumner said. “Even then, we had to cope with extremely tight working conditions.”

To assist with traffic control, the companies deployed 14 electronic message boards, six arrow boards and more than 300 signs. The companies utilize SOLR message boards obtained from American Sign Companies and arrow boards acquired from WANCO.

To demolish the existing bridge walls, the companies utilized Kobelco Mark IV SK 200LC excavators equipped with hydraulic hammers. Workers then relied on a Link-Belt 2800 excavator equipped with a crusher, to crush and remove rebar from the debris.

At some locations, workers could simply allow portions of the bridge wall to fall to the ground below, then retrieve them with loaders. At others, such as the railroad bridge, construction crews utilized cranes to lift off segments of the old bridge wall as they broke free.

But at the Oconee River Bridge, the construction team had to devise an even more innovative strategy for tackling the demolition work.

“We couldn’t allow any debris to fall into the river,” Sumner explained. “So we attached a huge drop pan to the P&H crane and suspended it beneath the bridge to catch the debris as we knocked concrete off with the demolition tool attached to our excavator. Then, we would swing the pan around, deposit the debris into trucks, and haul it away.”

The complications associated with the Oconee River Bridge didn’t end with demolition, however. For example, an odd bend in the river below required workers to come up with an innovative approach to crane deployment.

“We brought in barges and stationed a Kobelco crane and a Kobelco excavator out in the river to dig footings and set pilings,” Sumner said. “Unfortunately, the water was too shallow to move the barges close enough to the west bank of the river to drive pilings. So on that side, we built work platforms and brought in our Link-Belt 418 and drove the pilings from the river’s edge.”

Weather extremes also made the barge work more adventurous than originally expected. During last summer’s drought, workers often arrived to find the barges resting on the river bottom. When rain finally arrived during the holiday season, construction crews then had to cope with rapidly rising water levels and shifting river currents.

At other locations, construction crews encountered additional challenges. To complete the Pughes Creek Bridge, for example, workers will have to install one of the largest concrete pilings ever utilized in central Georgia. The piling measures 92 ft. (28 m) in length and 36 in. (91 cm) square.

“We are looking at a variety of ways to get that piling into position,” Sumner said. “We may utilize a special, extra heavy-duty 200-ton crane owned by Wood Hopkins, a division of Mitchell. We will also examine possible ways to install it in sections.”

Crews involved in placing standard steel H-pilings at other locations ran into a few surprises as well. “At one overflow bridge, we had a 12-in. H-pile that went down 254 ft.,” Rogers said. “In other places, the pilings only went down 80 or 90 ft.”

At overflow bridge number two, the Rogers Bridge Company crew also had to stabilize existing pilings that had settled laterally through the years. To accomplish this goal, workers drove new pilings outside of the existing bridge structure, poured new footings, and then completely encapsulated the old caps beneath the bridge.

But the challenges didn’t end with the addition of new caps. Because of the tight working conditions, setting new beams for the bridges also required extensive planning and flawless execution by the entire construction team.

“On the outside of the bridges, we had no room for cranes or other heavy equipment, so our only option was to utilize two cherry pickers to lower beams into position from the top of the bridges,” Sumner said. “We used a P&H cherry picker and a Tadano cherry picker for that part of the job.”

In addition to closing one lane to make room for the personnel lifts and the trucks bringing in the beams project officials had to pace traffic to keep vehicles out of harm’s way while the crews lifted beams into position. Sumner personally coordinated the pacing activities from his company pickup. In the process, he also received a tremendous amount of assistance from officers of the Georgia State Patrol.

“The Georgia State Patrol officers who assisted with the traffic pacing did a great job,” Sumner said. “Deputies from the Laurens County and Treutlen County Sheriffs’ Departments also helped a great deal by patrolling the construction zone and issuing tickets to a large number of motorists who they caught driving at excessive speeds.”

Tight working conditions and heavy traffic also made pouring concrete for the new bridge decks more challenging than the joint venture partners would have preferred.

“On the first bridge, we poured the deck in 40-ft. sections,” Rogers said. “But we soon decided that, because of traffic and the challenges associated with getting concrete trucks to the sites, it would be easier to pour an entire span at once.”

For that reason, bridge crew superintendents arranged for entire convoys of concrete trucks to arrive in sequence. As soon as a truck could offload its cargo, it would move forward to retract its chute and make way for the next. As that went on, a swarm of workers moved quickly to spread out the material ahead of the Bidwell bridge screed that did the bulk of the concrete leveling work.

Another team followed the screed to further smooth out the concrete and assist inspectors as they measured to ensure that the new decks reached the proper thickness.

While all these activities took place, crews from Reeves Construction worked steadily on grading and widening the shoulders of the road.

“Weather and traffic have been the biggest challenges in completing our part of the project,” said Dennis McAllister, operations manager for the Southeast Division of Reeves Construction. “We have to coordinate traffic control with the bridge construction crews while also working around a variety of weather conditions. During the winter, for example, the subgrade was often too wet for our equipment to work on the shoulders. On other days, the temperature was too low for us to spread asphalt.”

Nevertheless, the company has succeeded in maintaining its demanding schedule by utilizing an impressive fleet of equipment. The Reeves Construction crew relies on a Wirtgen 1900 DC milling machine to prepare the inside and outside shoulders ahead of the paving operation. Caterpillar D4 dozers and 140G motor graders assist with various grading chores. The company also has a Caterpillar 322L excavator on hand for more in-depth earth-moving and clearing tasks.

“We have moved about 40,000 yds. of earth so far, and we still have a significant amount of work remaining before we finish preparing all of the shoulders for paving,” McAllister said.

When the Reeves Construction team completes its preparations along a stretch of roadway, the company rolls in a Blaw-Knox 3200 to spread the asphalt for the new outside shoulder areas. The inside shoulders have been paved utilizing a RW 195 Blaw-Knox machine set up for 4-ft. (1.2 m) paving. McAllister expects that his crews will utilize more than 32,000 tons (28,800 t) of asphalt and 48,000 tons (43,200 t) of GABC material during the course of the project. Construction workers use Ingersoll-Rand DD90 and DD24 rollers to compact the new asphalt.

“We do most of the work during daylight hours, but all of the inside shoulder work near the bridges takes place at night,” McAllister said.

To illuminate its efforts after dark, the company has constructed its own light towers. Each tower has its own generator installed in a frame built by Reeves Construction engineers.

The team from Reeves also has to coordinate its efforts with those of other subcontractors involved in the project, which includes electrical utilities and guard rail specialists.

“We have a lot more work ahead of us but, for the most part, the job has been pretty straightforward,” McAllister said.

Other participants in the project have a great deal of work left as well.

“We’re saving the Turkey Creek Bridge for last, because that one will have some hydro-demolition and hydro-milling involved,” said Rogers. “But we expect to have everything completed by the end of September 2002, as called for in our contract.”

“We still have quite a few hurdles to overcome,” Sumner agreed. “In the end, though, this stretch of road will be much safer for all the motorists who travel between Savannah and Macon on I-16.”

This story also appears on Crane Equipment Guide.

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