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Wed September 20, 2017 - Midwest Edition #19
Nearly one-third of the work has been completed on the Michigan Department of Transportation's $165 million 75 Rouge River-Detroit-Downriver Connection bridge project.
It's an initiative that is repairing and upgrading four bridges that cross the Rouge River, vital railway lines and canals crucial to the auto and construction industry, and impact life in a residential/urban area in South End Detroit.
The project, which started last February by C.A. Hull Co., is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018. The bridges being dealt with are the I-75 over the Rouge River, I-75 over Fort Street, and I-75 over Goddard. The bridges and 8 mi. of road carry about 110,000 cars and trucks daily.
The work is far from easy as the construction schedule is based on engineering issues in regards to the demolition, re-decking and other construction-related challenges.
MDOT is replacing the existing deck on I-75 over Rouge River.
It is in poor condition, according to MDOT's web page. The bridge was constructed in 1967, and the deck is at a condition where patching and repair are no longer a viable option for MDOT. The cost of replacing the bridge would be more than $400 million versus the $90 million for deck replacement. Replacing the deck extends the life of the bridge to over 50 years at a fraction of the cost for a bridge replacement.
Over the past 40 years the substructure units have been repaired, along with some deck work, according to the site. These previous improvements helped to maintain the structure in a condition that avoids the need for a costly replacement.
MDOT is fully aware that traffic is being impacted by the work, but it determined that fast-tracking the project would minimize the long-term impact of spreading the work over several years.
Both the I-75 over Rouge River and I-75 over Goddard Road bridge projects are significant projects that require detouring southbound I-75 traffic, according to the site. Improvements to this I-75 corridor have been packaged together to take advantage of this detour and to reduce future impacts to the public,
MDOT has broken down the project via the main elements: I-75 over Rouge River and Fort Street — $90 million; I-75 over Goddard Road Bridge — $30 million; the I-75 freeway patching — $3 million (Springwells in Detroit and Northline in Southgate). The majority of the project is being federally funded.
MDOT hired a group of firms to design the new infrastructure, which included elements to quicken construction.
The four public meetings hosted by MDOT were well attended, including the recent of August meeting.
MDOT is shutting down several sections of I-75 for various periods, some for and throughout 2018, to allow work to continue unimpeded. Detours have been established, with continuous updates being provided.
The safety of construction workers and motorists is critical.
The size, type of work, and physical constraints of both I-75 bridge limit the ability to perform this work without a freeway detour, according to the site. Improving each bridge part-width would extend the length of construction, require multiple stages, put motorists in close proximity to construction workers, increase traffic delays, and increase the cost of the projects.
The SB I-75 detour option was selected because it expedites construction, separates motorists from construction workers, and reduces the delays being experienced by the public. MDOT examined 12 concepts and a detailed traffic analysis was performed on viable options to determine the safest option to minimize traffic delays and expedite construction.
This led to the decision to close the entrance ramp from Fort Street/Schaefer to northbound 1-75 until the project is complete in 2018.
C.A. Hull crews started their work on the I-75 bridge over the Rouge River (1.63 miles long) last February and are continuing with the demolition of the deck on the southbound lanes.
"We've removed about 70 percent of the southbound deck and we're in the process now of putting down metal deck, re-steel, putting barrier on, etc.," said Clay Malloure, one of C.A. Hull's project managers.
"We started at the north end of the bridge and are working towards the south end. It's like one big train. We're scheduled to complete the demolition in early September and would like to have the deck poured by the end of October/mid-November.
"The northbound side has live traffic and we're separated by one lane. The bridges are separated by about 12 inches, so we have pretty tight quarters right now. Five hundred feet to the north we're working on the Fort Street bridge. It's being done on a slightly different schedule, but has a similar scope of work — removing and replacing bridge deck."
Dan's Excavating Inc., a major subcontractor, is taking care of the Sexton-Kilfoil Drain and Goddard Road bridges at the south end of the job (2 miles away). These bridges are nearly 50-years-old and 2,000 ft. in length.
"They are a great partner on the job," said Malloure. "They've got some more technical work to complete with a slightly accelerated schedule. They are going to finish a month before us on the southbound lanes and then start working on the northbound bridges. They also have a full closure in their work zone."
Malloure is fully aware of the challenges and difficulties of the project.
"We have multiple railroads coming into Detroit under the bridges, daily vehicle traffic, and freighters travelling beneath, especially the Rouge River bridge," said Jim Reed, C.A. Hull's director of project managment.
"The trains service Ford and other manufacturers and automobile parts plants. The bridges are in the heart of industrial America. It's not easy moving traffic over to one side and getting the work done in a short amount of time, but that is where the pressure is."
Freighters carrying cement from St. Mary's Cement pass under the bridge to bring material to Detroit, which is then shipped to many mid-west locations. AK Steel is underneath the bridge, as is rail track from five or six companies.
"We have a full-detailed demolition engineering plan for the Rouge River Bridge," said Reed. "Everything is being done to according to the plan — the sizes of the pieces that we take out and how we take them out — and we have very unique equipment to do that. Because we're leaving the existing steel in place, we cannot let any debris fall below onto the railways, residential neighborhood, and the ships plying the river. It's basically like doing surgery."
C.A. Hull teams designed and engineered the special equipment that is attached to the excavators to make them more efficient and effective in a tight work area. They also installed a catwalk along the sides of the bridge, which improves safety and gives the crews more flexibility to complete their tasks.
To prevent debris from falling, a metal false deck system has been installed.
The bridge deck is more than 100 ft. above the river.
"Safety is the key to this whole job," said Malloure, who noted that crews are working Monday to Saturday, 10 to 12-hour shifts.
"Depending on the operation and where it sits in the work schedule, we're working double-shifts. We started off with two shifts for the demolition, and have continued that for the majority of the bridge work. We're typically pouring deck three to four nights a week, and that crew will stay on night shifts pretty much the entire time."
While winter will curtail certain operations, Malloure noted that crews will be working year-round, with a focus on demolition on the northbound side of the bridge, with re-decking operations to hit full stride in the fall.
Among the many subcontractors are: Dan's Excavating for road and bridge work; Ajax for paving; GM and Sons for work on the bridge approaches; Nylander Engineering for surveying; BlackSwamp Steel for tying resteel; and Florence Cement for pavement patches.
C.A. Hull has approximately 100 people on-site, bolstered by roughly 60 subcontractor personnel.
Estimates are still being determined concerning the amount of materials being removed and used for the new construction.
The concrete is being recycled for use on the bridge, and the steel sent to scrap yards.
C.A. Hull and railway officials are coordinating efforts to ensure the bridge work does not interfere with rail operations.
"For shipping, we are maintaining the navigation lights and other features that the freighters depend upon. We had to coordinate with the Coast Guard early on, and they've been very helpful. We do a lot of deck removal and replacement projects and they are very similar, but the unique thing about this project is that Rouge River Bridge is 8,600 feet long and operation on similar projects that would take a day or two to complete, take months on this one. This project offers us good opportunities to find hidden efficiencies and ways to improve our techniques."
As noted, C.A. Hull designed equipment to help with the strict demolition plan.
"We installed roto-tips on nearly every excavator — at the very end of the arm of the machines," said Reed. "This allows the attachment, whether it's a bucket, hammer, or anything that spins 360 degrees, to operate more efficiently. Our machines can be sitting square on top of the girders. We've also fabricated custom grab buckets.
"Once you remove concrete, there is often concrete left over on the steel which needs to be chipped off," he added. "We created a 'dustpan' and we have an attachment at the end of the excavator that straddles over the top flange, and the dustpan catches concrete debris as is chipped off. Our shop has done a great job of fabricating custom equipment that is really helping us out."
C.A. Hull is using a variety of cranes: Terex off-road cranes; various crawler cranes; and five small Broderson cranes.
"The Brodersons can sit in about 12 foot lanes of traffic," said Reed. "There's not a lot of room on the northbound side of the job and the cranes are useful in off-leading trucks.
"We try to time to deliveries when we need the materials and off-load them to exactly the right spot. The biggest materials coming in are re-steels, metal decks and concrete. We have a reserve lane on the northbound side separated by barrier wall where we can access materials where we can line up the trucks with the cranes. The logistics are complicated and sometimes it feels like a military operation."
C.A. Hull is not overstressing its equipment, and at this point, much of the equipment is focused on the demolition, such as the 80,000 plus pound excavators from Cat.
"They are working significantly under capacity due to the demolition procedure," said Reed. "The concrete deck surface of the bridge is 47 acres — this is the largest bridge in Michigan."
The company's shop/yard is about an hour away and mechanics are sent in as needed to assist the on-site mechanic servicing the equipment.