Crews Begin U.S. Highway 98 Bridge Replacement

Fri January 21, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Beverly B. Nichols

Crews have started the construction of a new bridge that will carry U.S. Highway 98 over Fish River in Baldwin County, AL, where it feeds into Weeks Bay.

The project, planned for some years, is expected to benefit both road and water traffic in that area. The bridge replaces the present 50-year-old structure, which Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials said has been gradually deteriorating and, while not yet dangerous, needs to be replaced.

More than 8,700 vehicles cross over the bridge each day.

The current bridge will be demolished after the new one is in place, approximately 100 ft. upstream. Its remains will be disposed of in the Gulf of Mexico for use as an artificial fish reef like ones found off the coasts of Florida, North Carolina and Texas.

The project has become a priority in Alabama because of the increased traffic flow in recent years. The roadway takes traffic from Alabama’s eastern shore to U.S. 59, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

The challenge of building a bridge over the estuary — a national research reserve —hasn’t proved daunting to the New Orleans, LA-based Boh Brothers Construction crew, who began site preparation in June. Leading the project for Boh Bros. are Site Superintendent Tim Dupre and Project Manager Chris Jennings.

Boh Bros., with offices in Alabama and several other southern states, received the contract for this $10.25 million project, 80 percent of which is being funded by the federal government and 20 percent by the state.

Projected completion date of the new bridge, which was designed by state DOT engineers, is June 2006.

Dodged Ivan’s Force

Jennings expressed gratefulness that Hurricane Ivan had not significantly delayed their operation.

“We lost some time preparing for the storm and we did lose some hay bales. We didn’t think they would float away but when the river water rose, float away they did,” Jennings said.

Working in a breeding area for sea life and a home to several species of flora and fauna, the crew members have faced some challenges.

“We’re well aware of the need to protect this environment. We’ve built a Type A silt fence and a turbidity barrier for sediment control and have grassed the historic areas to provide additional protection,” Jennings said.

He explained that in addition to building some new roads and temporary bridges over marshes for bringing in equipment and supplies, work has begun on the approaches to the bridge and on the foundation for the piles. For the approaches, some 136,000 cu. yds. (104,000 cu m) of fill will be required. The fill is being brought in from a nearby privately-owned sand pit.

The bridge itself will have a l,700 ft. (518 m) span and a width of 55 ft. (17 m). It will have two 12 ft. (3.7 m) lanes with 10 ft. (3 m) shoulders and an eight ft. (2.4 m) wide walking/bike path on the north side. A clearance of 35.38 ft. (10.8 m) will allow more boating access than the current bridge.

All the equipment needed for this project is owned by Boh Bros., including the site-dominating Manitowoc Crane (Jordan 808).

Other equipment currently in use includes a Cat 345B backhoe, a Cat D5 bulldozer, a Cat 320 backhoe, a Deere 270LC backhoe loader and an Ingersoll-Rand Roller 5D-100D.

Additional machines are brought in as needed.

Several companies are assisting Boh Bros. in this project. Thompson Engineering of Mobile, AL, is working on roads, back fill and utilities. The Harper Group of Montgomery, AL, will provide the steel structure and Madison Materials of Ridgeland, MS, is responsible for the girders and piles.

Lots of Material

Massive quantities of materials are needed for this project. According to Jennings, in addition to the fill already mentioned, other projections include 200 tons (181 t) of asphalt for the road approaches; 18,400 linear feet (5,608 m) of concrete for the piles; 54 in. bulb tee girders for the 100 ft. long span; 33,550 tons (30,436 t) of structural steel and 2,930 cu. yds. (2,240 cu m) of concrete for the bridge.

Boh Bros. have had 8 to 10 men working on the site preparation. Up to 60 employees will be needed during some phases of the actual bridge construction.

Company History

Boh Bros. was founded in 1909 by Arthur P. Boh, who was soon joined by his brother, Henry, and later by other family members. The current president and CEO is Robert Boh, Henry’s son, who succeeded his father to became chairman in 1986.

A recent project completed by Boh Bros. was site work for the new Ipsco steel mill in Axis, AL. The company also built the Gulf stream compressure station for natural gases in Codene, AL.

ALDOT and the National Estuarine Research Reserve staff have been very active throughout the planning and construction work.