Crews Ensure Traffic Keeps on Rollin’ Over Blackwater

Wed February 14, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

The Blackwater River Bridge on Route 40 in Waverly, Va., is showing its age.

The 50-year-old bridge needs to be replaced, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has awarded the $3 million contract to Bryant Contracting Inc., of Toano, Va., to get the job done.

Bryant started work on the project, which includes the bridge replacement and roadway approach work, in early December. The anticipated completion date is May 2008.

Tommy Lindsay, VDOT’s construction manager of the Hampton Roads District, said VDOT is inspecting bridges more frequently than in the past. An inspection of the Blackwater River Bridge pinpointed some issues that come with age.

“It’s 50 years old and not the prettiest bridge we own,” explained Lindsay. “The bridge is starting to show its age, so we’re going to replace it.”

The Blackwater River Bridge is 200 ft. (61 m) long with two 10-ft. (3 m) lanes and no shoulder lanes. The replacement bridge will be approximately 50 ft. (15 m) longer and 24 ft. (7 m) wider, including two 12-ft. (3.7 m) lanes with 10-ft. (3 m) shoulders. The new bridge will be constructed of precast concrete and slab spans overtop of concrete pilings with concrete caps.

The contract also consists of approximately 1,000 ft. (305 m) of roadway approach work. The contractor will be expanding the road approaching the bridge by building shoulders where none existed before.

This portion of the project will contain a great deal of sheet pile driving at the embankment.

“The river is at the edge of the road,” explained Doug Jackson, construction manager of Bryant Contracting, “so the sheeting runs all the way down to the river.”

Workers will install 2,500 ft. (760 m) of sheet pile, allocating 1,200 ft. (370 m) on each side of the bridge. Rock will be used as fill material at the bottom and riprap will be used along the embankment.

Presently, Bryant is demolishing half of the old bridge as part of the first phase. The contractor has split the bridge in half, allowing vehicles to use the bridge while it is being replaced.

“We are trying to reduce the detour signs because we don’t want to impact the local economy,” Lindsay said.

Once one side is finished, the process will be repeated on the other side.

In addition, temporary signals have been installed and pile testing has been done. According to Jackson, workers have “driven concrete test piles to determine the length of piles under the bridge.” Concrete fabricators are currently making the bridge piles.

An ICE 416 hydraulic vibratory hammer and an ICE 160S hydraulic hammer are assisting with the sheet pile work. Additionally, Bryant is using a Grove RT745 rough-terrain crane to feed the 18-sq.-in. (116 sq cm) concrete pile to the pile hammer.

“We always use an extra crane since these piles can get rather heavy,” Jackson said.

Bryant also is making use of a Link-Belt LS-518 150-ton (135 t) crane for the bridge work. A Lima 70-ton (64 t) truck crane, which Jackson described as “ancient but one of our favorites,” is on the project site as well.

What’s more, a Hitachi EX270 excavator and a John Deere 610 backhoe are helping with excavating causeways.

“Environmental concerns have increased over the years,” Lindsay said. “Before, you just built the bridge.”

Now, VDOT and its contractors have to be more cautious when working in environmentally sensitive areas like the Blackwater River and other natural waterways. Additional measures have to be taken, such as building causeways and cofferdams.

In addition to Bryant, there are numerous subcontractors performing various tasks on the project. Grading work will be performed by Horace A. Davis Excavating Inc. in Ford, Va., and milling will be done by Slurry Pavers Inc. in Glen Allen, Va.

B. P. Short & Son Paving Co. Inc. in Petersburg, Va., will be performing the paving.

Beams and reinforcement steel will be provided by D.T. Read Steel Co. in Chesapeake, Va., and guardrail work will be completed by L.S. Lee Inc. in Richmond, Va.

Bryant Contracting is considered an expert in bridge construction and has plenty of experience working in the vicinity of the Blackwater River.

“They have a history of doing good work in Virginia. They’ve built three bridges on this same route from 1998 to 2000,” Lindsay said. “We have one of the best contractors to work on this job. They give you a bang-up job.” CEG

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