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Cranes Take Center Stage as World Trade Center Site Rises

Mon August 16, 2010 - National Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

Cranes of all makes and models surround the site in October 2009.
Cranes of all makes and models surround the site in October 2009.
Cranes of all makes and models surround the site in October 2009. A second tower crane was installed in January 2010. A shot of the work at the World Trade Center site in December 2009.

The World Trade Center Site in New York City’s Lower Manhattan has been a place of much construction and sadly, destruction, over the past four decades. When construction started on the first towers in the late 1960s, businesses and area residents were not all pleased, especially since there was both displacement involved and a change in the character of the area due to what some feared as a modern monstrosity in their midst. Architectural critics wondered and worried about the loss of human scale due to the tremendous heights involved with the appearance of these twin, rather boxy structures. For several years one of the towers was the highest building in the world until Chicago’s Sears Tower reached completion.

In the wake of the devastating loss of life and destruction of the towers on 9/11, debate, dispute, controversy and high emotions have slowed the progress of development of what instantaneously came to be known as Ground Zero. But lately building has been taking place. Work proceeds and once more perhaps complaints about building designs will recede with ribbon-cuttings as these new structures become a part of our new consciousness. Until then, the many cranes on-site hold sway as work goes on.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC) are the main organizations involved in this tremendous undertaking. Currently there’s activity happening on the entire 16 acres, according to Steve Coleman, public affairs assistant of the Port Authority.

This includes the One World Trade Center site, formerly called ’Freedom Tower’ which is now presently up to the 30th floor (of 105 floors). The Port Authority is working on getting the plaza organized and assembled so that adding soil and planting trees can proceed in the latter part of summer 2010.

“We expect the work to really ramp up this year,” said Coleman. “We’ve recently awarded contracts to build the station part of the PATH [Port Authority Trans-Hudson] Mall. Contracts have also been awarded to bring the eastern part of the hub where the big ocular entranceway that Carl Traub designed up to street level. Much of that work will be under way later this year. We’re also doing the excavation work that we have to do before we can start construction of the vehicle security center.”

Power cranes and crawler cranes are brought on-site practically every month. There are contractors for each of the main projects. Tishman Construction is the main contractor on One World Trade Center. Bovis Construction is the contractor on the WTC Memorial and Museum and there is a joint construction of Tishman Construction and Turner Construction, with Tishman Construction the site manager on the PATH Transportation Hub.

Cranes Keep Going With a Multitude of Tasks

A project this huge seems to be manned by an endless variety of contractors with far-reaching timelines. Most have been using tower cranes and crawler cranes.

When one of the contractors that Cranes Product & Service Guide talked to installs its own tower crane it takes 12 tractor trailer loads to bring the components onto the site. Most of these are wide loads because they are always more than 8 ft. (2.4 m) in width. And some of them are heavy loads because if the machine deck is shipped it contains all the motors and drums for the cables. Oversize load permits must be obtained from either the state or the city agency for DOT for every load.

The Transportation Hub project took 58 truckloads in order to transport all the components onto the site – for just one crane, a Manitowoc model 18000. This huge crane weighs approximately two million pounds total and can lift up to 825 tons (749 t). The Manitowoc Company has only two lattice-boom crawler cranes that are bigger than this one.

The work involved on Tower One has a price tag of more than three billion dollars. For the work on the entire WTC project there are several construction companies involved that have their own crawler cranes on site. The site is so huge different contracts and portions have be issued to different companies.

Challenges of Getting Huge Cranes into a Huge City

New York Crane owns some of the cranes working on One World Trade Center, some on the Transportation Hub and some on Tower Four. It rents the cranes to those firms needing them on the job site. On Tower One there are two Favco 760s, a Manitowoc M18000 crawler crane and a Manitowoc M16000 crawler crane. Those cranes were moved over to work on the Transportation Hub and capacity on the 18000 was increased by adding the Maxer attachment. The cranes are involved with the steel on Tower One, the steel on the Transportation Hub and the concrete with Tower Four.

Anything entering the jurisdiction of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation – another governing body – requires installation of DTF filters on cranes to limit emissions in an effort to get the least amount of emissions from any crane, even if it involves a TF-3 engine.

“There is a lot of paperwork, a lot of obstacles down there and a great deal of planning involved,” explained Sal Isola, operations and general manager of New York Crane. “They don’t approve things immediately so there is a lot of delay in the process as well. The safety of the cranes themselves is always a given, but working down there you also have the Port Authority, Department of Buildings, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and other organizations on that job site with everyone having a say in what’s going on one way or another. It’s a very challenging place to work.”

Working with the oversized loads is a tremendous challenge. It takes a long time to get a machine onto the site. All the routes are professionally surveyed before crane parts can be brought to the site. Equipment is brought in with escorts.

Routes are submitted to the city and the city has the final say. “That’s the way all the loads go in,” says Isola. “And that’s the way all the loads go out.

Isola said that the crane industry boomed from 2003 until 2009. Even in 2007, when the country experienced a drop in business, the crane industry was still going strong and had a backlog of work orders. This is not the case in 2010, as little money is being released to build new structures or lend money to people in order for them to purchase apartments or condos. The money flow has largely halted.

Then in May 2010 the DOT in New York started implementing crane travel restrictions that had never been implemented in the past.

“The new regulations required that a permit for the mobile crane be in place before the crane could leave the yard and travel to the site. In the past we started the cranes at an early time to travel across the bridges and returned at a time after rush hour had passed,” said Isola.

“These permits that we applied for on a Monday for a Saturday job would not be approved until 8 or 9 pm Friday night at times. Sometimes they would not approve it at all. There are many hours spent waiting for approvals for travel permits for cranes to get into and out of New York City and all Boroughs as well.

“The amount of pressure that this adds to an already stressful profession cannot be put into words. Many hours of planning crane assembly and loading of 20 to 30 trailer loads of crane parts are useless if we do not get the travel permits for the cranes,” he added.

It took a great deal of time for Isola to find out what New York Crane would be allowed to do. “Some of the restrictions included shutting the entire bridge down to get the crane parts across it. In any case and despite all this, New York Crane has always had safety as our top priority in the working with and the moving aspects with the machinery - from day one and going forward,” he said.

For Isola and many others, the current challenges they face in construction are just part of the job of erecting a building that will eventually rise to (including antenna) 1,776 ft. (541 m), symbolizing the year of American’s Independence. For the approximately 800 construction and iron workers, many of whom helped with the clean up at the aftermath of 9/11, this is not just any project. They are working on, likely, the most anticipated high-rise Americans have ever built.

One World Trade Center, the centerpiece of the new World Trade Center complex, will taper into eight tall isosceles triangles, forming an octagon at its center. An observation deck will be located 1,362 ft. (415 m) above ground and there will be a square glass parapet at 1,368 ft. (416.9m), the heights of the original Twin Towers. The building will include 2.6 million sq. ft. of office space, restaurants, retail, and access to the PATH, subway and World Financial Center.

The Tower is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2013. For live action progress and detailed information at the World Trade Center site go to: and and CEG