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NYSDOT Replaces 85-Year-Old Truss Bridge

The decades old bridge carries an average daily traffic of 18,508 vehicles per-day.

Tue September 22, 2015 - Northeast Edition
Irwin Rapoport

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. has nearly completed the replacement of the New York Route 5 and U.S. Route 20 Bridge over Cattaraugus Creek for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), a nearly $16 million project funded by the state and federal government.

Work on the project, located in the Cattaraugus Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians, began in July 2013. The old 540 ft. (164.6 m) long bridge, built in 1931, had two lanes (one in each direction). The replacement bridge also has two lanes, but has wider shoulders and sidewalks.

“The existing bridge is approaching the end of its useful life,” stated the NYDOT Web page for the project. “It has inadequate vertical clearance for large trucks and the bridge sidewalks do not meet federal standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The proposed project will replace the existing truss bridge with a wider, multi-girder bridge on a slightly modified alignment.”

The bridge carries an average daily traffic of 18,508 vehicles per-day. Its structural deficiencies were identified through the NYSDOT’s continuing bridge inspection program.

“A June 1997 bridge inspection resulted in a General Recommendation of four, indicating serious deterioration requiring major repairs or replacement,” according to the Web page. “As a result, an Initial Project Proposal (IPP) dated August 7, 1998, was issued to eliminate the structural deficiencies and restore the wearing surface. During preliminary design, rehabilitation and replacement options were considered. A 2004 load-rating determined floor beam deterioration was such that the bridge was temporarily load posted for 18 tons (16.33 t). In early 2005, a strongback deck girder support system was installed, allowing for the temporary transfer of the load from a failed floor beam to the adjacent floor beams, and the load posting was removed.

“A subsequent inspection in August 2006, found accelerated deterioration on the west side floor beams such that consecutive floor beams could fail and the strongback system would no longer be effective,” it added. “The bridge was again load posted for 18 tons. In late 2006, a contract was completed that repaired the connection of west side floor beams to the lower chord of the truss and the load posting was removed.”

Steve Rudnicki, the DOT’s project manager, said the new bridge was designed to last 30 years with minimal repairs.

“It is expected to last much longer before it needs replacement again,” he said. “There were a couple of environmental concerns. One was petroleum-contaminated material that was excavated during waterline installation, due to an old gas station site. The other was lead paint on the old bridge. Any loose paint was scraped off and disposed of prior to demolition. After the beams were pulled from their bearings, any paint that came off was removed with a layer of soil for disposal. All of the paint debris was taken to a sanitary landfill.”

Working on the Seneca Nation of Indians territory created challenges during design and construction due to land ownership issues, contractor employment issues and coordination with the Tribal Council.

“All major decisions and permits had to go through the Council which required a great deal of communication during construction,” said Rudnicki. “Working on the SNI Territory required a TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance) Agreement which provided that half of the labor on the project would be Native American, a goal that was met by prime and subcontractors. Also provided in this agreement were payments to the SNI and also payment for a monitor from the SNI to help them with inspection of the project. This helped with communication of issues that come up during construction.”

Commenting on the utility work, Rudnicki said, “The utility that was designed to be hung under the bridge was for communication lines. It carries a high-priority fiber optic line and the carrier was designed to add the least amount of weight to the new structure. It was also placed between two girders so as not to be a catch hazard during times of high water. There was waterline work involved, but that was due to the construction of a roundabout in place of an existing signal system.

“One of the major benefits of this project in addition to a new bridge is the introduction of the roundabout,” he added. “The existing intersection of Routes 5 and 20 were offset from Route 438, which created a high accident location. The roundabout incorporates 438 into the roundabout creating a better flow of traffic without the delays of a signal. There have been very few accidents at the roundabout once it was completed and the couple that did occur were very minor.”

The work also saw the replacement of the signalized intersection of Routes 5, 20 and 438 with a modern roundabout — a single-lane infrastructure with pedestrian accommodations throughout.

Some of the objectives for the project include: restore the condition rating to five, or greater; minimize the life cycle cost of maintenance and repair; provide adequate capacity for traffic on N.Y. Route 5, U.S. Route 20, and N.Y. Route 438 intersection, while simultaneously providing significant safety improvements; and improve mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists and large dimension vehicles by improving highway/bridge geometric elements.

In April 2013 the project received a NYSDOT GreenLITES Evergreen award that “recognizes the achievements and contributions of the project towards improving safety and mobility while reducing the impact to environmentally sensitive areas. The celebrated project accomplishments included the completion of 12 public involvement meetings, inclusion of amenities to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians, improving fishing access to Cattaraugus Creek, the use of context-sensitive solutions to design a gateway entrance to the Cattaraugus Territory of the SNI, maintaining a 2:1 tree replacement ratio and the use of soil bioengineering techniques and traditional planting for riparian corridor restoration.”

Union Concrete and Construction crews replaced the bridge in two phases.

“We built the first phase of the new bridge adjacent to the old truss bridge while traffic was maintained on the old bridge,” said Robert Nordwall, Union’s project manager, “and then tore down the old bridge

Union received the contract in June 2013, and was on site within one month, using the time to order materials and waiting for the design drawings to be finalized.

“In 2013, we built the first phase of the substructure and set the structural steel,” said Nordwall, “In the spring of 2014, we formed and poured the deck. We were able to place traffic on the new bridge on June 15, and by the fall of 2014, we had the substructure completed. We extended all the piers and abutments from the 2013 work.”

It took Union one month to demolish the old bridge, and to deal with the environmental concerns for the demolition. Crews constructed a causeway through mid-stream to catch all of the falling debris. When the first half of the bridge was torn down, the causeway made of non-erodible limestone, was moved to the other side of the creek so that demolition could continue

“It was pretty much normal construction,” said Nordwall. “We were building on a rock foundation that was designed at an elevation and predicted by reports. The rock turned out to be at a much lower elevation, which required some redesign of the cofferdams and footers. Pre-planning help us anticipate any potential problems and it gave us the flexibility to come up with timely solutions.”

Union’s main shop and office is 30 mi. (48.3 km) from the work site, and securing the timely delivery of construction materials was easy for Nordwall. The same applied to the subcontractors, which included Ferraro Piling and Shoring, for cast-in-place piling and sheet piling for the cofferdam; Buffalo Drilling for drilled shafts; Iroquois Bar Corp. for rebar installation; Elderlee for bridge rail and guiderail; and Contour Steel for structural steel erection. Union had about 10 people on site daily, along with five on average from the subcontractors

When demolished, the materials collected consisted of 4,000 tons (3,629 t) of concrete and 1,000 tons (907 t) of rebar and steel. The concrete from the deck and substructures was crushed on site with a Kolberg-Pioneer jaw crusher and impact crusher and used as a sub-base for the project.

The new bridge and roundabout consists of 4,800 cu. yds. (3,670 cu m) of concrete, 880 tons (798 t) of steel, 20,000 tons (18,143 t) of asphalt and 220 tons (199.5 t) of rebar.

The bridge carries traffic that uses N.Y. Route 5 and U.S. Route 20 and they separate at the east end of the bridge, and at that point are joined by N.Y. Route 438 and a local road. This situation led to the construction of the five-way roundabout.

“The people were quite upset about it to start with, but one year later, everybody seems to love it,” said Nordwell. “It was just something new. We don’t have a lot of roundabouts in the Buffalo area.”

In terms of utility work, Union relocated a waterline to coincide with the roundabout configuration, along with a telephone conduit on the bridge. NYSDOT designed the utility relocations.

The first year of construction ended in mid-December and the second year went from mid-March to mid-October.

“We got to the point where we couldn’t do much more than pouring concrete. This year we started in mid-March,” said Nordwall, who notes that single-shifts are the norm for the project.

Equipment-wise, this project has seen Union use Komatsu PC300 and 400 excavators, a Komatsu D51 PX-22 dozer with a Topcon GPS system, a Link-Belt 60 ton truck crane, a Grove 28 ton RT Crane, several Cedar Rapids pavers, a Hamm HD 140 VV roller and a Cat CB64 asphalt compactor.

“We brought equipment in as needed,” said Nordwall. “We do a lot of projects in the general vicinity and equipment moves around to service a lot of jobs. Everything comes into the shop during the winter, so when it comes out in the spring, it should be in good-working order. And then it’s just daily and weekly monitoring and routine maintenance.”

Equipment operators do daily checks and reports. Any problems are immediately reported to management, who then schedule mechanics to come in to do the repair work.

“Previous work is labeled on the machine, which lets our mechanics know what was done and when.” Nordwall said. “Most of the repairs we are doing now are essentially wear and tear from the job.”

Nordwall was aware of the terrible shape the old three-span truss bridge was in.

“It had been repaired and had a steel strongback placed on the entire length of one of the decks to support it,” he said. “It was in extremely poor condition. We replaced it with a single composite girder bridge. The truss bridge was supported on massive concrete and we now make do with less concrete and more rebar. There was little rebar in the concrete that we demolished. We worked very hard to build our piers in the middle of the creek and it makes you wonder how they did it 80 years ago.”

Part of Union’s agreement with the Seneca Nation of Indians was that 50 percent of the work force be Native American. A lot of the permit processes went through the Nation for approval.

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