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North Causeway Bridge Offers Innovation, Congestion Relief for Fort Pierce, Fla., Motorists

Thu May 09, 2024 - Southeast Edition #10

The new bridge will soar 85 ft. over the water, a substantial increase over the 25-ft. clearance available in the old bridge.
Photo courtesy of FDOT
The new bridge will soar 85 ft. over the water, a substantial increase over the 25-ft. clearance available in the old bridge.
The new bridge will soar 85 ft. over the water, a substantial increase over the 25-ft. clearance available in the old bridge.   (Photo courtesy of FDOT) Vecellio & Grogan, the prime contractor for the project, will be installing 347 pillars of different sizes for the new bridge.   (Photo courtesy of FDOT) Test pile installation at Pier 20.   (Photo courtesy of FDOT) Pile driving operations at Pier 18, 19 & 20 looking east.   (Photo courtesy of FDOT)

Built in 1963, the drawbridge in Fort Pierce, Fla., is structurally deficient. Vecellio & Grogan of Beckley, W.V., is building the new North Causeway Bridge, which incorporates innovations that will benefit pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and boaters. The new bridge will span the Indian River Lagoon, Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) and Old Dixie Highway to meet U.S. 1 on the west side.

Photo courtesy of FDOT

The new bridge will eliminate delays for motorists awaiting the bridge to open and close. Boaters also will benefit from free water access and not having to wait for bridge openings. The new bridge will soar 85 ft. over the water, a substantial increase over the 25-ft. clearance available in the old bridge. The new bridge will be 4,152 ft. long and cross over the FEC Railroad Corridor, Old Dixie Highway and the Intercoastal Waterway.

Residents and boaters enjoy the water access, but the salt air and water have a corrosive impact on bridges. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) planners decided to lessen these effects by using fiberglass, not steel, in the observation deck substructure and superstructure reinforcement. Unlike steel, fiberglass is highly resistant to corrosion from salt air and should last decades longer than a traditional bridge.

The bridge will be 1.2 mi. long and is expected to cost $111 million. It is scheduled for completion by late 2027.


Another innovation that promises to reduce the water impact to the bridge is the use of high reactive pozzolans (HRP) in bridge elements such as the concrete pilings, footings and columns that fall within the splash zone — approx. 12 ft. from the water line. Samantha Kayser, spokesperson of FDOT, pointed out the advantage of using HRP in this project.

"The pozzolans being used in the project are fly ash and metakaolin," she said. "These elements are ultra-fine particles that better fill the void spaces between the aggregates and cement in the concrete mixture, which increases the reactivity of the cement mixture. HRP also provides better workability with less water in the unhardened state and greater impermeability, increased durability and higher strength in the hardened state."

Vecellio & Grogan will install 347 concrete piles of different sizes for the new bridge. The piles weigh between 22.5 and 47 tons.

For the project, workers will use 28,000 cu. yds. of concrete; 3,500 tons of reinforcing steel; and 10,800 tons of asphalt. The construction team will also use approximately 140,000 cu. yds. of dirt and rock to build embankments, use as subgrade and for base.

Photo courtesy of FDOT

Workers will use the old bridge material for environmental benefit. The construction team will transport the concrete to an existing artificial reef about 4 mi. northeast of the Fort Pierce inlet. The reef will benefit hundreds of sea creatures, from crabs to coral.

Sea creatures are not the only beneficiaries of the bridge construction. The new bridge will provide a beautiful view of the water for bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the bridge and accessing local roadways. Both sides of SR A1A will have new 8-ft. shoulder; buffered bicycle lanes; an 8-ft. sidewalk on the south side; and a 12-ft. shared-use path on the north side.

The contractor faced numerous challenges in building a bridge over water with piers in the water.

"We are utilizing a sheet pile cofferdam system to move the project forward and still maintain the vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow through the project limits," said Clint Seace, project manager of Vecellio & Grogan. "This also allows us to minimize utility relocations on both sides of the causeway."

The project team brought in several pieces of specialized equipment for the construction.

"We utilize a Pileco D100-13 diesel impact hammer to drive the concrete piles through the hard layer and to 55 to 60 feet of embedment," said Seace. "We also utilize vibratory hammers that vibrate the steel sheets into their necessary locations. We believe this process is a cost-effective solution to working in tight corridors with vessel traffic nearby."

The contractor is using a barge mounted Liebherr model LR1300, 330-ton crane with a 170-ft. boom. Workers are using the crane to install the concrete piles as well as the sheet piles with the use of an ICE 44B vibratory hammer. The construction team also is using a Manitowoc model MCL165 S-2, 182-ton crane with a 150-ft. boom. The team is using this crane mainly to set and vibrate the sheets into place with the use of HPSI 300 vibratory hammer.

The contractor, working with FDOT, is using a novel approach to the bridge foundation installation for the North Causeway Bridge. Cofferdams are being used consisting of cantilever sheet pile walls "…that will retain earth, water and fill material," said Seace. "This system will enable us to more efficiently build a causeway that should benefit the public for years to come." CEG

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