Reed & Reed Spans ME’s Kennebec With Link-Belt Crane

Tue November 25, 2003 - Northeast Edition

Reed & Reed celebrated its 75th anniversary by submitting the award-winning bid to build a new $10-million bridge over the Kennebec River in Augusta, ME. Almost as if to put the final candle on its birthday cake, the company took delivery on a new 250-ton (225 t) capacity Link-Belt LS-278H crawler crane.

Reed & Reed President Jackson Parker said that this latest crane acquisition was part of a strategic move to further upgrade and improve one of the largest crane fleets in New England.

The crane will assist in the bridge construction scheduled for completion June 2004. Several other barge-mounted Link-Belt cranes, including an LS-518 and an LS-418, are working on the pier foundations. This includes sheet piledriving for cofferdam construction, excavation and concrete pours.

The high-level bridge is a five-span steel curved plate girder with a concrete deck design on a radius of 3,000 ft. (914 m). The girders are fabricated of high-performance steel. It’s 40-percent stronger, tougher, more resistant to cracks and weathers well.

This new technology benefits the state by requiring less steel. As a result the bridge costs less to build and will not be painted making it easier to maintain. This is only the second project in the state to use this type of steel.

The Augusta Third Bridge that carries Route 3 over the Kennebec River is 1,105-ft. (337 m) long and 115-ft. (35 m) tall at its high point. The two abutments and four piers have a west to east downslope orientation. The poured-in-place concrete piers range from 75 to 66 ft. (23 to 20 m) high. Crane and bucket concrete placement was carried out using Link-Belt crawler cranes.

Each abutment has HP14x73 foundation piles in various lengths that were driven to refusal on bedrock. Pier No. 1 has HP14x89 piles, also driven to refusal. The other three piers have spread footers resting on bedrock. Pier No. 2 was excavated 30-ft. (9 m) deep; Pier No. 3, 12-ft. (3.7 m) deep; and Pier No. 4, 10-ft. (3 m) deep.

“A principal reason for the purchase of the LS-278H crane was not particularly for its lifting ability, but for its reach,” said Greg Letourneau, superintendent.

“We have one girder that is 120 feet long, 7.5 feet high, weighs 60,000 pounds and must be set out 90 feet. There’s also a lot of heavy hook work on this project. Our pier and abutment formwork requires a crane and operator with very sensitive controls. When our guys ask for a quarter or half an inch, that’s exactly what they want,” he explained.

“That was the situation on this pier. We have to lower the form sections a half at a time once the carpenters give us the word. The first operation is simply to break the gang form loose from the concrete pier cap. Slow steady pressure is the answer here. It’s a matter of gently increasing the pressure; you don’t want any jerky motion. There are men working up there on scaffolding and you don’t want to endanger them,” said Ralph Rogers, crane operator.

“Then we lowered the big panels with the single whip line and swung 180 degrees to put them down on the ground. At that point, I was working out at 118-foot radius from the centerpin. We’re using regular lay wire rope rather than the non-twist variety because it gives us that little extra safety factor. Besides, we always have at least two tag lines on a lift like this. We don’t take chances,” explained Rogers.

Another task for the new LS-278H is to place concrete for the middle three piers using a 3-cu.-yd. (2.3 cu m) Gar-Bro concrete bucket. That’s a weight of approximately 24,000 lbs. (10,886 kg) when fully loaded. The crane will be operated from the land trestle during these procedures. The 278H has its work cut out for it since there are two concrete placements per shaft. Dragon Products Co., of Augusta, ME, will supply concrete.

“We literally had to pick up that 80- by 8-foot plate girder form for the pier cap a quarter of an inch at a time in order to strip it and lower it to the ground in two pieces. There was a lower soffit from underneath it and an angle under that giving us a very limited space to let the jack down on the falsework in order to get that form out of there. We literally had a total of only half an inch to play with,” explained Letourneau.

“The operator used our new Link-Belt LS-278H hydraulic crane to pick that 24,000-pound form up a quarter inch at a time. That allowed us to ease that form half out without damaging the new concrete. Then he could lower it down, back up, and repeat the process to extract the other form half. That’s only the beginning. The operator using that crane is going to do that on three more piers for a total of six lifts,” said Letourneau.

“The major difference between the new LS-278H, of course, is that the 518 is a friction crane — a great machine — but a friction crane nevertheless. Our LS-278H is a state-of-the-art hydraulic machine. This crane is an operator’s dream. I can sit in it all day and go home at night without feeling fatigued,” explained Rogers.

“With this new 250-ton Link-Belt with hydraulic controls, everything is done with an easy wrist motion. The cab is a dream, great visibility and easy access. And with the controls configured the way the Link-Belt engineers have done, it’s a smooth — very smooth — crane. When the guys up there ask for half an inch, I know that I can give them that with these hydraulics,” concluded Rogers.

The 250-ton (225 t) Link-Belt LS 278H was shipped from the Link-Belt factory in Lexington, KY. The first of 11 truckloads began arriving at the Kennebec River Bridge project the first week of July. By late the following week, the delivery of Reed & Reed’s newest crane was complete. Erection commenced immediately; a few days later, the safety checks were complete, and the machine was put to work.

“Reed & Reed keeps us on our toes on this job, supporting their LS-418, LS-518 and now the LS-278H. They are really great people to work with,” said Chris Palmer, of Woods CRW Corp., a Link-Belt distributor.

Reed & Reed, one of northern New England’s foremost heavy civil contractors since 1928, also has been a long-term user of Link-Belt cranes. The company has purchased five new cranes in the past three years including: a new 80-ton (72 t) LS-138H II and 110-ton (99 t) crawler cranes in 2000; a new 50-ton (45 t) RTC-8050 rough-terrain crane in 2001; a newly rebuilt 110-ton (99 t) LS-418A crawler crane in 2002; and the LS-278H crawler crane in 2003.

From the start, Reed & Reed established itself as a leader in Maine’s bridge construction industry. Over the years, it has steadily expanded its expertise. Today the company offers a full range of general contracting services and has approximately 16 Link-Belt cranes in inventory.

Headquartered in Woolwich, ME, with regional offices in the Caribbean, Reed & Reed now performs a wide range of commercial and industrial construction. Projects include highway and bridge construction, marine facilities, hydro facilities, heavy-equipment contracting, industrial buildings, parking garages and environmental remediation.

For more information, call Woods CRW at 802/658-1700 or visit