Posillico Uses Finesse to Rehab Third Gen Bridge

Mon September 22, 2003 - Northeast Edition
James Van Horn

Sometimes transportation rehab projects don’t require a massive attack by equipment but just a case of a lot of hand work, supplemented by equipment where necessary.

That’s the case with the rehabilitation of the Long Beach Road/Austin Boulevard bridge over the Reynolds Channel, between Long Beach and Island Park NY. J. D. Posillico Inc., Farmingdale, NY, is performing the bridge rehab under a $12.4-million contract with Nassau County, Long Island, in partnership with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). (The funding split is 80 percent Federal, 20 percent county.) Hardesty and Hanover is the outside engineering consulting/inspecting firm.

Bascule bridges, one of several types of drawbridges, are fairly simple in concept and construction. The bridge consists of a movable deck or decks (leaves), which pivot on a fixed axis up and away from the centerline of the channel to allow boats to pass. The leaves are precisely counterbalanced so little electric power is required to raise and lower them. They are simple and speedy to operate and are cost-efficient because they need little power. They don’t require the elevated superstructure of a high-clearance fixed span. For these reasons, bascules are popular in the New York area, with 12 in New York City alone and several more on Long Island and New Jersey.

However, they have more moving parts than fixed span bridges and therefore tend to wear out. And that’s basically what happened with the Long Beach bridge, according to Brent Barnes, engineer-in-charge of the project for the NYSDOT. The existing bridge shows typical wear and tear of many openings and closings, aggravated by salt water. Plus, it doesn’t meet today’s safety standards.

According to the Web site, the first Long Beach Bridge was built in the early 1920s and provided four 10-ft. (3 m) wide lanes, two in each direction. It was the first fixed link between the barrier, on which Long Beach and other communities are located, and Long Island. The bridge proved inadequate to handle the growth of Long Island in the 1940s — the lanes couldn’t handle the wider vehicles of the day, and the original span was too low. It was replaced by the present Long Beach Bridge now being rehabilitated.

The bridge is 820 ft. (250 m) long and carries six lanes of traffic, three on each span. Each span is 45 ft. (14 m) wide, with 36-ft.-wide (11 m) roadways. Clearance at the center above mean high water is 29 ft. (8.7 m). Each of the four bascule draw spans is 150 ft. (45 m) long.

The bridge will keep its existing footprint, but it will be brought up to the latest Federal standards. Posillico will replace all structural steel on the bascule leaves except for the bascule girders, as well as expansion joints, replace the bearings with new seismic resistant ones, and rewire the electrical system. Crews will clean and repaint structural steel, and update the fendering system — the pilings next to the water protecting the supporting piers of the bridge. The contractor also will widen and repave the approaches to the bridge on either end.

Posillico will chip out and replace concrete where it is spalled to install the new joints on the deck; however, most of the deck will remain, as it is still in satisfactory shape.

The project began this past March and is on schedule to be completed in mid-April 2004, said Barnes. Crews work a single shift, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with no night or weekend work.

According to Barnes, “Posillico is running the project in two stages. In the first, the contractor shuts down the northbound side completely, diverting all traffic onto the southbound span. This has been set up for four lanes, two in each direction. It’s a safer arrangement, because Posillico has full run of the span under construction.” When work on the northbound span is completed, Posillico and the NYSDOT will reverse the process for the south span.

Fortunately, while vehicle traffic is fairly heavy, boat traffic is light in this part of the Reynolds Channel. The bridge schedule calls for on-demand openings every two hours during the day, but only actually raises two or three times a day, according to Barnes. (Posillico crews must also accommodate these openings.)

“We anticipate this will be a fairly straightforward job,” said Barnes. “Rehabbing existing bascule structures can be a problem, but not here, it’s not likely there will be unforeseen situations.”

In terms of equipment, there are quite a few air and electric hand drills, hammers, and wrenches being used by Posillico crews to chip out old concrete to put in new elastomeric seismic joints.

For the lifts, such as new grates, Posillico used a Tadano 50-ton (45 t) capacity rough terrain hydraulic crane as well as a Grove 100-ton (90 t) unit. Jack-of-all-trades is a Komatsu WO 450 wheel loader. A pair of Snorkel TB 120 telescoping boom aerial lift platforms support crews working on the undersides of the span.

For more information, visit www.nycroads.com.