Eight Cranes Work as One in Challenging Culvert Lift

Mon March 28, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

It went off like a well-choreographed dance.

Except in this case, the ballerinas were 100- to 150-ton cranes and hardhats, not tutus, were the required uniform.

Eight cranes, manned by operators from four area suppliers, converged in December at the future location of Grand Champion, a 360-unit housing development in Daytona Beach, FL.

Their task?

To work together to place a 350-ft. long aluminum arch culvert into a ditch.

It measured 20 ft. wide and 8 ft. tall. Each crane carried approximately 12,000 lbs. (5,400 kg).

Joe Weber, of Volusia Construction, the general contractor of the project, was in charge of organizing the lift.

“I was extremely nervous,” he admitted. “It was the first time for anybody there” to perform a lift with this many cranes.

Weber had to bring in eight cranes from Bryson Crane Service, All Sunshine, Sims Crane and Florida Mechanical because of the structure’s weight and the reach that was required.

Mike Bryson, president of Bryson Crane Service, who manned one of the cranes during the job, said the structure’s flexibility was vital to the lift’s success, but also caused some challenges.

“If it’s not flexible, [the lift] would break it all to pieces,” he said.

Randy Friloux, regional sales engineer of Contech Construction Products, of Orlando, FL, the firm that manufactured and designed the 80,000-lb. (36,000 kg) culvert, said installing the culvert in one piece allowed the contractor to maintain the flow of water through the ditch at the site.

They could have completely dewatered the land and then constructed the culvert piece by piece, he said. Contractors also have the option of having the culvert constructed inside the ditch.

In the end, they decided to wait for the hurricane waters to dissipate.

“In this case, we wanted to dry it up a little bit because they wanted to get a good bedding stone layer below the structure for stability and bearing capacity,” Friloux said.

To make the lift easier the crews had to use spreader beams to create the necessary amount of rigidity. The 25-ft. (7.6 m) spreader beams helped out because “when you pick it up, the beam is keeping the cables apart,” Bryson said.

The cranes were connected to the structure at 32 different points.

Contech originally designed the lift for four very large cranes, but that, in turn, called for 67.5-ft. (20.5 m) spreader beams.

Friloux said the contractor decided to go with eight cranes and smaller spreader beams instead.

Positioned in the midst of the line of cranes, a flagman directed the dance. A spotter was positioned at each end of the culvert.

During the lift the cranes picked the structure approximately 5 ft. (1.5 m) off the ground and then boomed out to approximately 20 to 25 ft. (6 to 7.6 m).

Computer technology in the cranes helped the operators keep the load among all eight cranes balanced.

From the beginning of rigging to the time the crew pulled off the job, including rigging and dismounting, the process took approximately eight hours, Weber said.

The lift itself only took approximately 30 minutes.

The glitches during the process proved to be minimal.

One crane experienced some minor computer problems, which caused only an hour delay, and the crews had to increase the size of the lifting holes in one of the spreader beams.

Weber wasn’t the only person mystified by the sight of eight machinery giants working as one. He said several motorists pulled off to the side of U.S. 92 to watch the job. CEG