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Record-Setting Span a Blessing for St. Lucie River, Area Commuters

Wed April 19, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Sheila Irvine

The new Evans Crary Bridge across the St. Lucie River on the east coast of Florida will provide two westbound lanes, two eastbound lanes, shoulders, bike paths and sidewalks — a vast improvement over the two-lane drawbridge that’s carried traffic over State Highway A1A since it was built in 1954.

Construction on the almost $31-million project, about 64.4 kilometers (40 mi.) north of West Palm Beach, began in September of 1998 and is expected to be completed by spring or summer of 2001, according to George Denti, project manager for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The prime contractor on the job is PCL Contractors, out of Canada, with offices in Coral Springs, FL.

“We have 15 subcontractors and dozens of material suppliers,” Denti said.

“Most of the equipment we’re using is conventional,” Denti said, but the method of construction is not and will set a record. “We’re using a truss to enhance the erection process. That process is precast segmental construction and we’re setting a record for the longest span or precast segmental construction — one hundred eighty and a half feet span length.”

The substructure — the pilings, footers and columns — are the same, but the conventional method to build a bridge entails pouring the deck 19.8 meters (65 ft.) in the air, which, Denti said, is not very efficient.

With the segmental method the beams and deck are “precast at a remote site under factory conditions, which allows for higher productivity and better quality.”

The large truss that is used to position the segmented spans is custom-made by various specialty steel fabricators for such projects, Denti said, “and oftentimes is scrapped afterwards.”

Speaking of scrapped, the existing drawbridge will be hauled out to sea and used as an artificial reef, Denti said.

“We’ll be completing the eastbound lanes by late May,” he said. Then traffic will cease traveling on the old drawbridge which has only two lanes and no shoulders and must open and close for marine traffic and begin to use the opened section of the new bridge.

“The old bridge [which is part of Highway AIA which parallels the Atlantic Ocean, the entire length of Florida] has outlasted its useful life,” Denti said. Demolition of the old bridge will then begin. One-third of the substructure of the westbound lanes is complete, Denti said, which is as far as the state DOT could go without interfering with the existing old bridge.

The two bridges are 15.2 meters (50 ft.) wide and 914.4 meters (3,000 ft.) long.

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