Greenville’s Liberty Bridge Allows Visitors to Freely View Waterfalls

Tue January 21, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Gwenyth Laird Pernie

Flowing through historic downtown Greenville, SC, is the scenic Reedy River. Sitting on this river, with its waterfalls and lush gardens, is Falls Park.

Over the past 40 years, the Carolina Foothills Garden Club of Greenville and the city of Greenville have worked with individuals, corporations, and state and federal agencies to further develop the park. In 1990, landscape architect Andrea Mains, of Washington D.C., began to draw up plans to transform the area into a regional attraction, with botanical gardens and a curved suspension pedestrian bridge.

Construction of the $4.5- million Liberty Bridge, the only one of its kind in the United States, began in 2003. Arcing away from the falls, it will provide visitors an aerial amphitheater from which to view the cascading water. As the centerpiece of the park’s public gardens, it will appear to float over the landscape.

“The Liberty Bridge is part of a $13.5-million park restoration project in Greenville,” said Paul Ellis, city of Greenville director of parks and recreation, “and will be an asset both to the locals and the many tourists that visit Greenville every year. The 12-foot-wide walkway on the bridge will provide magnificent viewing of the colors, textures, and flowers in the gardens below, and in the evening the pale green bridge will be enhanced by subtle lighting in both the handrails and from underneath making it appear to glow.”

Miquel Rosales, of Rosales, Gottemoeler and Associates, Boston, MA, is the chief architect, and the general contractor is Taylor and Murphy, Asheville, NC.

According to John Herrin, project manager, the unique technical aspects of this bridge are what mainly interested Taylor & Murphy in the construction.

“Every step in the daily construction is related to a future item,” Herrin said. “No one item –– no matter how small –– can be overlooked. For this reason, a competent staff was assembled to plan and build this suspension bridge in a safe and efficient manner.”

A 346-ft. (105.5 m) suspension bridge, the Liberty is designed with a horizontal curve or radius of 214.3 ft. (65.3 m) and an incline rate of 3 percent from one end of the bridge to the other. The deck is 8-in. (20.3 cm) thick reinforced concrete.

The main single suspension cable will stretch from one abutment to one of the 90-ft. (27.4 m) towers, then to the opposing 90-ft. tower, and on to the second abutment. There will be a main suspension cable with hanger cables on the opposing side of the falls, allowing for unobstructed views of the cascading water.

“The twin towers will not stand plumb or vertical at final placement, but will be leaning away from the bridge at a 15-degree angle,” Herrin said. “A second cable for each tower will be from the top of the tower pulling it back to an anchor away from the bridge.”

One of the biggest challenges in planning for the bridge was finding alternative suppliers in the United States that would accommodate the specifications required by its European design, noted Ellis.

“Taylor and Murphy was essential in obtaining local contractors for the project,” Ellis said. “[The company] was instrumental in lowering the overall cost of the bridge.”

“This project incorporated different elements and techniques for its construction,” Herrin said, “and we were able to draw from the area to produce a majority of the components and contractors for the bridge.”

Equipment used on the project include a 45-ton (40.8 t) American Crawler Crane, used for site work, and a 28-ton (25.4 t) telescopic Grove crane –– both owned by Taylor & Murphy.

A Klemm 806 dual rotary head drill, from Frontline Construction of Florida, was used in the installation of the micro piles and rock anchors, which reached depths of 65 ft. (19.8 m). A 110-ton (99.7 t) Link-Belt Crane, rented from Pinnacle Cranes of Charlotte, NC, was brought in for the additional lifting and height capacities needed for the 90-ft. (27.4 m), 26-ton (23.6 t) mast.

Crews used a Takeuchi mini-excavator along with a trench shield for a shoring device while excavating the footings. The Takeuchi was able to squeeze successfully into tight areas around the foundation micro piles and within the trench shield. Both pieces of equipment were rented from Sunbelt.

A Landoll model 317-48 sliding axle trailer, owned by Taylor & Murphy, was used to maneuver the tighter turning radiuses needed to negotiate the park. Taylor & Murphy is using Geodometer 600 Robotic survey equipment for all survey and construction layout.

Installation of most of the gardens will be complete in this spring, and the bridge is scheduled to open in the summer.

Funding for the Falls Park development came from the Greenville Hospitality Tax, generated from hotel and restaurant sales.

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