Great Bridge Roads Completed Six Months Ahead of Schedule

Fri March 18, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

A little more than a year after traffic began driving along the new Great Bridge Bridge in Chesapeake, VA, crews have completed the approaching roadways, a $6.8-million project.

Crews from Tidewater Skanska, which also worked on the $20.8-million bridge project, completed the roads approximately six months ahead of schedule.

Originally set for completion in July 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers project was able to get ahead of schedule for a few reasons, said Andrew Spendlove, resident engineer for the Great Bridge project.

What helped a lot was that Tidewater Skanska ended up being the low bidder for both construction contracts on the project. The Corps had originally planned for a phasing of the roadway to coordinate with the on-going bridge work to eliminate conflicts between the projects.

But being at the helm of both phases, Spendlove said they were able to rework some of the sequencing in order to get ahead of the game.

Before work on the Great Bridge was finished, they extended the worksite onto the 46 ft. (14 m) culvert bridge, which was a part of the second contract. By shifting work from one side of the culvert bridge to the other to line up with the work happening on the Great Bridge, and by working 60 hour weeks from Thanksgiving to the end of February, Spendlove said a lot of time was saved.

Also, instead of forming the slabs on-site, Skanska brought in pre-formed concrete slabs for the culvert bridge on lowboys, which also helped the work site shift happen successfully because of the time that saved. Each of the 19 cored slabs weighs approximately 20 tons (18 t) and measure approximately 47 ft. (14 m) long by 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Spendlove said the bridge, now spanning five lanes instead of just two, was ready to drive on approximately a week after the completion of the bulkhead.

Approximately 10,000 cu. yds. (7,650 cu m) of cut and 10,000 cu. yds. (7,650 cu m) of fill was moved during this phase.

But just because crews completed the job so early, doesn’t mean they didn’t run into any challenges along the way.

Spendlove said the process of driving in the sheet piles for the culvert bridge started without any problems.

But then, one sheet pile just stopped moving and the process began vibrating the embankment, causing some of it to slough into the waterway.

“That got scary for us because cars were going over the road [at the top of the embankment],” he said.

Plans for the 1925 version of the bridge showed there shouldn’t have been anything in the way, but the crews soon realized what was going on.

Spendlove said the cofferdam, which was used to keep water away from drying concrete, from the construction of the 1925 bridge was never removed.

In addition, the City of Chesapeake said Skanska crews couldn’t cut off a major water and sewer line that ran below the roadway during the peak usage season. Since that was necessary for the project, Spendlove said they provided material for another pipeline to the north end of the project to maintain flow during the project.

Spendlove said this pipeline came in handy when a barge rammed into and damaged the main line. Service remained uninterrupted because of the additional pipeline.

Approximately 9,000 tons (8,200 t) of asphalt was used to create the new roadways, which run approximately .75 mi.

The main subcontractors for the project were: Cascade Contractors, sewer, storm and water utilities; Parkway Grading, paving; Contractors Paving, asphalt; and Denbigh Construction, curbing.