Kiska Replaces Century-Old Bridge in NYC

Wed June 15, 2005 - Northeast Edition
David S. Chartock

For more than a century, the Third Avenue Bridge, which spans the Harlem River, has linked Manhattan and the Bronx.

Constant use and weathering led to a call for its replacement. As a result, work began in July 2001 on the $118-million replacement of the Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River.

The existing 300-ft.-long (91.4 m) swing bridge was in service from 1890 to 2001, with renovations taking place in 1954, noted Mehmet Ayverdi, a project manager of Kiska Construction Corp. USA, the project’s Long Island City, NY-based general contractor.

The following is included in the project’s scope:

• replacement of the existing bridge with a new, 370-ft. long (112.8 m) swing bridge composed of structural steel and lightweight concrete decks;

• replacement of the Manhattan and Bronx approaches;

• demolition of the existing bridge;

• replacement of the span’s granite rest and center piers;

• construction of a fender system on the center piers and around the rest piers;

• partial coverage of the center piers and rest piers with granite to resemble the previous structure;

• assembling of the new bridge in Alabama and barging it to New York City;

• transfer of the new bridge from an ocean-going barge to two river barges;

• complete work on the new bridge structure that could not be completed in Alabama;

• lift the new bridge into place; and

• installation and the eventual demolition of the temporary bridge.

All of this work must be completed under an A+B contract within a 52-month period.

According to Ayverdi, the A+B contract calls for incentives of up to $25,000 per day for each day the project is completed ahead of schedule. It also called for penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each day the project is behind schedule. To date, no penalties have been incurred and the project is on budget and on time.

The project has been stayed to keep it on schedule. The staging features three major phases and each major phase has numerous minor phases, Ayverdi explained.

One of the project’s stages, he continued, includes replacement of the Manhattan and Bronx approaches. The Bronx approach has the Bronx Ramp and the Bruckner Ramp. Each 1,000-ft.-long (304.8 m) Bronx ramp is composed of structural steel and concrete decks.

Ayverdi said his project team revised the project’s staging “so that the Bruckner Ramp could be built one year ahead of schedule.” This was accomplished by first completing the Bronx approach and building its connections to the existing bridge. “This then allowed us to take the Bruckner Ramp offline for reconstruction,” he added.

“We did this work simultaneously with the second phase of the project, which consisted of construction of the new approaches to the Manhattan side,” Ayverdi said.

Continuing, he explained that the 400-ft.-long (121.9 m) Manhattan approach is broken into three ramps: MA, MB and MC. The MA ramp is linked to Second Avenue in Manhattan; the MB ramp goes to the Harlem River Drive; and the MC ramp goes to Lexington Avenue.

The next stage of the project included demolition of the existing rest piers and center piers.

Once the demolition was completed, “We drove six-foot caissons and topped them with concrete pier caps. We also reconstructed the center piers by driving 100-foot-long to 110-foot long caissons. The concrete-capped center piers each contain 2,200 cubic yards of concrete,” Ayverdi said.

To drive the caissons, a Liebherr 220-ton (199.5 t) capacity vibrating hammer was used from a barge in the river.

To build the new rubber deck and timber fender system, a 100-ton (90 t) capacity Manitowoc 4000 crane also was used from a barge in the water, and to install the granite for the rest piers and center piers, a 30-ton (27.2 t) Grove crane was used.

To remove the existing bridge in two picks, a 1,000-ton (900 t) capacity Chesapeake crane was used, he added.

“The new bridge,” Ayverdi said, “was assembled in Alabama and floated into New York City on a 400-foot long ocean-going barge. It took 10 days to reach New York City.”

Next, he continued, “We transferred the new bridge from the ocean-going barge on to two 10,800-square-foot river barges.”

Once the new bridge was transferred to the river barges, work that could not be done in Alabama, could now be done, he pointed out.

This work included electrical wiring, installation of roadway steel guardrails and installation of the bridge’s sidewalk grating.

All of this work was done using the two river barges and 36 Mammoett SPMI mobile hydraulic lifts to lift and turn the bridge and to transfer it from the ocean-going barge to the river barges. The latter took two days, he noted.

Once this work was completed the barges with the new bridge were towed during low tide to its appropriate location. When the tide came in, the bridge was floated into place. Once the bridge was in place, he explained, “We used a hydraulic jacking system and waited for low tide so the new bridge could be set in place. The new bridge was on a center pivot bearing.”

The next step was to pour the concrete deck. To do this, a Putzmeister conveyor belt was used to transfer concrete from the approaches to the deck. “Concrete pumps were not allowed for this operation because we had to use low slump concrete,” he added.

Ayverdi said that “Since we removed the existing bridge, structural steel was installed on pipe piles and ’H’ piles. This temporary bridge has two prefabricated main spans made by Mabey Bridge in Pennsylvania.

“As soon as we were done installing the new bridge, traffic was diverted from the temporary bridge to the new bridge,” Ayverdi added.

Some of this work required Caterpillar 950 loaders for excavation. Kiska Construction also rented compaction equipment and A. Wagner concrete pumps for the lightweight concrete from Kap Equipment of New York City, he said.

The project’s biggest challenge was schedule constraints for completing the installation of the temporary bridge, transporting the new bridge from Alabama, demolishing the existing piers, and demolishing the temporary bridge.

The solution to all of these schedule constraints, except transporting the new bridge from Alabama to New York City, was to maintain a day crew of 120 workers, a night crew of 50 workers, work overtime, and when required, occasionally work seven days a week, he said.

Transporting the new bridge from Alabama to New York City impacted the project schedule, Ayverdi explained, because the project’s owner, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), “would not allow the existing bridge to be demolished until the new bridge arrived in New York.”

Furthermore, the existing bridge had to be demolished within a five-month period, because NYCDOT, he pointed out, “does not allow use of a temporary bridge beyond five months.”

Another project challenge was to keep traffic moving. To accomplish this, one lane of traffic was kept open at all times. “This required a phased schedule with work being done on one side, the other, and at night,” Ayverdi added.

Driving the caissons and piles also posed a challenge because of noise restrictions imposed by New York City law. As a result, work on the bridge piers and abutments could only be done from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., he pointed out.

Ayverdi added that the old bridge and the temporary bridge were not only demolished, but were recycled after they were demolished.

The project is scheduled to be completed by November 2005. CEG