Crews from Concrete Applied Technologies Corporation (Catco) began work on the replacement of the Elmwood Avenue Bridge over N.Y. Route 198 and Scajaquada Creek (Buffalo, Erie County) in late spring 2015, and the plan is to complete the $10.375 million project by December 2016.
The New York State Department of Transportation project, which has received federal funding, will construct a new “cost-effective bridge that accommodates all modes of transportation including cars, trucks, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, in a manner consistent with NYSDOT standards,” stated a NYSDOT fact sheet for the project, and “proposes to reconstruct Elmwood Avenue from Iroquois Drive to Nottingham Terrace; provide minor improvements to the intersection on Elmwood Avenue at Nottingham Terrace; reconstruct the portion of the Jesse Kregal Pathway directly below the bridge; and install new lighting and drainage systems, traffic signs, and pavement striping within the project limits. The project would be compatible with improvements proposed under NYSDOT’s N.Y. Route 198.”
The 855 ft. (260 m) long, four-lane north-south bridge was built in 1960 — it is a four-span steel multi-girder bridge with concrete deck has concrete stub abutments and piers supported by steel piles on a 33-degree skew. On a daily basis 30,000 vehicles cross over it.
It received an upgrade/rehabilitation in 1992 and is classified as “deficient with a Federal Sufficiency Rating of 37.4 (2013) and a State Condition Rating of 4.219 (2013). Although the bridge has received periodic maintenance over the years, it is now structurally deficient. The Regional Bridge Inspection Program identified the need for this project. The bridge currently has a Condition Rating of 4.219 (2013).
According to the fact sheet, “the paint system has failed with active corrosion present over 50 percent of the steel surface. Leaking bridge joints have resulted in concrete deterioration of the piers. Previous concrete repairs made to the pier columns are failing. Joint leaks are causing corrosion on the bearings. Section loss has occurred on the girders under the joints. Utility conduits and utility supports are severely corroded with up to 90 percent section loss. Segments of the concrete sidewalk exhibit isolated spalling adjacent to the bridge railing.
“The purpose of this project is to restore the bridge condition rating to 5 or greater while minimizing the life cycle costs of maintenance and repair,” it adds, “[and] the new bridge must provide a minimum 75-year service life and accommodate all modes of transportation”
An additional goal is to incorporate, as much as possible via the funding, “aesthetic enhancements suited to the structure’s cultural and historical context.”
The public was well consulted on this project, two stakeholder meetings — May 22 at the NYSDOT Regional office in Buffalo to discuss the project with representatives from the city of Buffalo and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and June 3 at the Buffalo History Museum to discuss the project with representatives from Buffalo State College, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo History Museum, Jesse Kregal Pathway Committee, and New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan’s office.
A public information meeting was held on June 18 at Buffalo State College where NYSDOT explained the need for the project.
This project is consistent with multiple local planning initiatives, including the city of Buffalo’s Comprehensive Master Plan, Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) and “Complete Streets” Policy, as well as New York State’s “Smart Growth” initiative
NYSDOT noted that in May, work was done: to set up erosion control measures; do clearing and grubbing; construct a pedestrian/bike path detour; install pathway detour signage; close the Jesse Kregal Pathway; remove the island at the Elmwood/Nottingham intersection; change pavement markings; install ramp detour signage; and in June, stage one of bridge work began. All Elmwood Avenue traffic shifted to the east side of the bridge — one lane for each direction.
“It’s a complete reconstruction of the bridge,” said Matt Salvadore, Catco’s superintendent. “It will be in the same location, but it’s just going be to wider. We started on the southbound side. The concrete barriers are in place and the work is progressing. We finished taking off the superstructure. We removed most of it at night due to the proximity of the expressway, ensuring the lowest risk to traffic. It took us about 10 days to do it and each of the abutments and piers should take two days to remove.”
When entirely demolished, the bridge will yield a fair amount of concrete, and steel and rebar.
“We also constructed a temporary causeway with four rows of 36-inch reinforced concrete pipe to keep the creek going,” he added. “We used all clean fill for the causeway because the biggest issue with this job is access in-between the river and the expressway. We’re working on a very steep slope and there is no room to set up a crane and by building this whole roadway over the water, we had a platform to work on as well as to ensure that no debris goes into the water.”
The causeway will be moved to the east side next year.
“It has saved us a lot of time,” said Salvadore, “Reducing the size of the crane that we would need and giving us the only access we had to that middle pier. We started driving the piles for the south abutment in mid-July and will be continuing on to the north one. As soon as the pile drivers are done, our carpenters will be here forming the lower pours.”
The new bridge will be completed in 2016 due to waiting for the steel needed to construct it.
“The steel queue this year pushed our minimum delivery date to October 1 and the earliest day we can start to set the steel is in that month,” said Salvadore. “The original plan was to have traffic on the new side of the bridge, but either way you have traffic restricted to one lane in each direction. Next year we will be doing the deck on the southbound side and switching traffic over as soon as possible.
“We had a lot of things to do to prepare for demolition of the southbound portion of the bridge,” he added. “We had to shut down the Jesse Kregal Pathway which required a detour that had to be ADA compliant. This involved all handicap ramps at the intersection of Nottingham and Elmwood to be fully reconstructed prior to the opening of the detour. We also had to remove the curb island from one of the 198 exits to accommodate the altered traffic pattern. Next year, no time needs to be spent working on these preliminary elements. We will show up and immediately start work on the bridge. “
Working on the new bridge decks in the spring also makes it easier to relocate the utilities, so that the disturbance to them is at a minimum.
“There are Verizon conduits that we are hanging on the newly set steel this year (on the southbound side),” said Salvadore. “There is a waterline that gets hung in the same place it is now on the northbound side. We are not going to disturb any of the existing utilities until next year because that is when the full depth reconstruction of the pavement areas outside of the bridge limits will take place. It doesn’t make sense to go in and disturb the ground/utilities until after the winter and after the new portion of the bridge is constructed. There is a significant amount of coordination between the DOT, Catco, and various utilities (National Grid, Verizon, Buffalo Water Authority) to make sure the utility installation goes smoothly.”
Catco has sufficient space for vehicle parking, materials storage, and temporary offices via the on/off ramps, which eventually become the site of a permanent dry swell.
“This project is definitely complex because of the access and amount of traffic in the area,” said Salvadore, who noted that he has easy access to construction materials and that his company’s main shop is only 30 minutes away.”
Catco is doing 75 percent of the work and nearly all the six workers currently at the site are from the firm. However, next year the workforce will increase to 15. Subcontractors include BVR for steel erection; G&J for the tying of rebar; Syrstone for longitudinal and transverse bridge deck cuts; Ferraro Piling for cofferdam sheeting and pile driving; and Accent Stripe for pavement striping and symbols.
Other than the steel installation for the bridge and demolition work, which will be done at night, the rest of it will be done by single day shifts. The work season runs through mid-March to mid-November.
Catco is still determining how much concrete, steel, asphalt and rebar will be used for the construction of the new bridge and roads.
Due to the proximity of the shop, there are no onsite mechanics and when needed, a staff of six mechanics can be called upon.
“Almost all of our equipment has GPS built into it,” said Salvadore. “We have Caterpillar’s Visionlink on all of our heavy iron, and we have Network Fleet with Verizon and all of our on-road vehicles and miscellaneous field assets (towables, containers, etc). We get notifications for oil changes and preventative maintenance issues. If a filter is needed, we can get them shipped to the shop or site, whichever is more convenient, and a mechanic will be sent to install it. GPS also helps logistics by giving us a big picture on equipment utilization. We can figure out what equipment is being underutilized and reallocate it to a job site where it is needed more. This cuts down on unnecessary equipment moves and increases production on a piece-by-piece basis.
“A lot of the demolition equipment experiences high wear and tear and mechanics are usually on call when we are using our hammers, shears, etc.,” he added, pointing out that operators do daily visual and fluid checks, including greasing the machines. “Another issue for us, less on the bigger equipment, is for smaller excavators, skid loaders, and backhoes — equipment that you can place on trailers. When you have something stolen and notify your insurers, your premiums will go through the roof. Our company is driven by equipment and we’ve had a couple of small excavators disappear because many people have Cat keys. With GPS I get alerts and notifications hourly if something is started during off-hours or is moving. So if something looks fishy, I and others can head to the job site to see what’s going on.”
This gives the company time to determine where the vehicles are and if they are being moved on a trailer, and to notify the police to recover the vehicles. The GPS systems were installed after several years of research to determine what would work best and Salvadore says that it is “still a work in progress.”
For this project, Catco has utilized a Cat 345 with shears; Cat 330 with concrete processors; Cat 324 with a hammer; Cat 322 with a Revdrill (for drilling pile holes); Cat 314 with shears; Cat 307 and Cat 303.5 with a hammer; Cat 930G loader; New Holland 228 skid loader; single-axle dump truck for small onsite moves; large tandem dump trucks for mass excavations; a Volvo end dump for bridge deck demolition; and a small Cat roller for miscellaneous pavement applications.
While some winter work occurs, the winter-off time is used to repair and refit all of the vehicles and machinery.
One of Salvadore’s operators worked on the 1992 bridge refit.
“The bridge is in rough shape,” he said, “but for it to be up as long as it is and in its current state, shows that it was good workmanship. When it was built they had four separate girders that go from the abutments to the piers, and now instead of having that chopped off, we’re going to have the splicers and one continuous girder. They are getting rid of two piers and that will provide a better view of the water.”
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