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Ohio Contractors Help Honduran Rebuild Bridges, Roadways

Sat January 22, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Mike Kelly

In October 1998, more than 5,000 Hondurans were killed and $5 billion in damage was done in the Central American country when Hurricane Mitch barreled through. Entire communities were destroyed; thousands of acres of land and crops were washed away or buried too deeply to be farmed. It also left more than 1,000 miles of roadway and 100 bridges impassable.

Two Ohio construction firms saw the damage done by Mitch and wanted to do what they could to help.

As a result, Con/Span Bridge System, an affiliate of Jones and Beal Inc. Engineers, Dayton, and Baker Concrete Construction, Monroe, looked for a personal way to help use their expertise. Together they believed that Baker’s 30 years of experience as one of the largest concrete specialty firms in the United States combined with Con/Span’s established state-of-the-art modular bridge technology could offer an efficient and economical solution to replacing many of the small bridges destroyed by the hurricane.

Knowing that working through funding sources takes time, the firm made plans to form a new alliance as Baker-Con/Span International for work in Central America. They decided to donate their first Con/Span bridge to the people of Honduras.

The 15.8-meter (52 ft.) wide bridge spanning 6 meters (20 ft.) and valued at $150,000 repaired the last major washout on the road connecting Tegucigalpa with the Valle de Angeles, a major tourist attraction.

The bridge was constructed with 11 precast modular bridge components weighing approximately 131 metric tons (145 tons): five 6-meter spans by 2.4 meters wide by 2.7 meters high (20 by 8 by 9 ft.), two 2.4-meter spans by 1.8 meters wide by 2.7 meters high (20 by 6 by 9 ft.) each with attached headwalls, and four precast wingwalls with anchors. The components were manufactured in Florida, shipped on a freighter to Puerto Cones, Honduras, and then trucked 190 miles inland to the Valle de Angeles site where they were installed using a 72-metric-ton (80 ton) crane.

The modular components of the bridge were set in place with the crane in a total of seven hours over three days. Following the installation of the components, the structure was backfilled and buried. The road will be built over the structure.

“I was so excited to see the bridge come into reality. The people watching actually started to applaud when the first component was set,” said Steve Lydy, vice president of business development for Baker. “Sharing their enthusiasm for the bridge and their hope for the future was a real treat for all of us involved in the project,” said Bill Lockwood, founder and president of Con/Span. The installation of the bridge allowed roadway completion and opening by Nov. 15.

Their gift was the first transportation infrastructure project to be successfully completed after Mitch by an U.S. company in the private sector.

The opportunity to offer the bridge came in March 1999 when Ambassador David L. Aaron, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, led 16 U.S. companies to Central America to explore trade opportunities resulting from the hurricane.

The companies hope the donation and their contacts with Soptravi will lead to further business in Honduras and throughout Central America. Soptravi’s Director of Highways and Bridges, Kathya Pastor, mentioned the possibility of direct contracting with Baker-Con/Span International for three bridges needed on an emergency basis in Honduras’ coffee-growing region. If orders warrant the new firm will set up a precasting plant in Honduras that might eventually supply precast bridges to other parts of Central America.

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