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Route 52 Causeway in New Jersey Almost Complete

Wed March 13, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

The final stages of work are currently winding down on the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) $400 million Route 52 Causeway Replacement project. The job forms part of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) $400 million Route 52 Causeway Replacement project, which began in October 2006.

One of NJDOT’s largest projects to date, the Route 52 Causeway job was regarded as of critical importance since it forms the emergency evacuation route for residents of Ocean City. In recognition of this fact, in the event of an emergency requiring evacuation during the construction period, an alternative plan to move residents to safety was developed.

The Causeway bridges date from the 1930s and the cost of their repair was increasing to such an extent that the department considered it more cost effective to replace the spans rather than to continue repairing them. In addition, land and marine traffic has increased, leading to higher congestion, which would be relieved by the removal of the existing drawbridges, which hold traffic up even further when raised to allow the passage of boats. Two of the existing bridges flood during storms.

Finally, the Causeway’s 10-ft. (3 m) lanes and lack of shoulders have caused a number of accidents. NJDOT has stated it expects the new bridges to reduce accidents by 20 percent.

Concrete forms the major part of Causeway bridge construction due to its resistance to salt water, and the surface of the road will be elevated a foot higher than the location’s hundred-year-flood measurement.

Two moveable and two fixed bridges were replaced by a pair of high fixed spans over the ship channel and the intracoastal waterway. Four mi. (6.4 km) of new highway featuring two 12-ft. (3.7 m) lanes, a concrete median barrier, and 8-ft. (2.4 m) shoulders in each direction were constructed.

The job also included demolition of a trolley bridge and its replacement with at-grade roadway.

NJDOT kept two lanes of traffic open in each direction during the tourist season, with one open in each direction and business access maintained during the rest of the year. In summer, the Causeway is used by about 40,000 vehicles daily and tourism forms an important source of local income. The project also meant vertical clearance (44 ft. 8 in. [13.6 m]) of the Route 52 bridge over Beach Thorofare in Ocean City’s Great Egg Harbor Bay was for a time impacting marine traffic.

The $251 million contract to replace two lift bridges and complete the Causeway began in September 2009.

Route 52 Constructors, a joint venture consisting of R.E. Pierson Construction Company of Somers Point, N.J., and G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc. of York, Pa., served as prime contractor for this part of the larger project.

According to G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc., the Causeway job involved:

• 125,000 cu. yds. (95,569 cu m) of excavation;

• Two bridges featuring 520,000 sq. ft. (48,309 sq m) of deck;

• Installation of more than 300 concrete pre-stressed beams with an average length of more than 90 ft. (27.4 m);

• 88,000 sq. yds. (73,579 sq m) of asphalt paving;

• 34,000 sq. ft. (3,159 sq m) of retaining walls; and

• Construction of a new visitors’ center and four fishing piers.

This is the biggest bridge R. E. Pierson Construction has handled, and it will change the appearance of the area as well as improve access in and out of Ocean City by eliminating the drawbridges.

The project involved more than a dozen cranes, some of them barge mounted.

With more than half of the work constructed from the water, it is estimated the number of barges needed would cover two and a half acres of land. Two Manitowoc 4100 Ringer, two American 9229, two Manitowoc 2250, and two Kobelco CK2000 cranes were on site, along with single Manitowoc 555, American HC165, Terex 35-ton (31.8 t) hydraulic RT, Grove 50-ton (45.4 t) hydraulic RT, and Grove 80-ton (72.6 t) hydraulic RT cranes.

Five specialized 95,000-lb. (43,091 kg) pile hammers, two of which are owned by Route 52 Constructors, also worked on the job. The models involved are APE D-160, ICE I-80, ICE 28B vibratory, ICE 416 vibratory, and ICE 812 vibratory.

“Route 52 Constructors needed high capacity impact hammers along with an advanced driving system in order to install and ’prove’ the foundation piles for this project,” said Dave Yingling, general manager of American Pile Driving Equipment Inc.

“The start of the job highlighted one of my patents for the drive system utilized on this project. It is called a two piece helmet and is designed to extend the life of the driving system and also better protect the pile from driving abuse inherent in any driving system,” he added.

A Bidwell 4800 finishing machine, a wide variety of Caterpillar, Komatsu, and John Deere earthmoving equipment, and JLG and Genie lifts of various sizes ranging from 60 ft. up to 120 ft. (18.2 to 36.6 m), also were part of the fleet of equipment on site.

Route 52 Constructors opened the southbound span to traffic in mid-December 2010. Roadwork continued through spring 2011. The same year saw the existing drawbridges demolished and the last two fixed span bridges constructed. With an estimated construction time saving of five months due in part to good weather conditions, the entire new Causeway was opened to traffic in May 2012 in good time for the start of the tourist season.

The project included provision of a bike path and pedestrian walkway as well as the new visitors center, constructed as a replica of the Ocean City Yacht Club, an early 20th century building now demolished. Access to fishing areas along the bridge also has been provided, forming an attraction in itself.

“Superstorm Sandy caused some damage to the environmental mitigation work we had previously completed and has delayed the completion of environmental and other work. We expect to be able to open the bike/pedestrian path in its entirety sometime this month (March 2013),” said Tim Greeley, New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman.

“There has been a lot of construction activity in the vicinity of the visitors center on Rainbow Island, and we kept the path closed in that vicinity for safety. Among the construction activities in that area has been work to haul away material from Rainbow Island. The storm delayed excavation work to remove a temporary ramp. That work was recently completed and now we are completing the road work for the entrance to the visitors center. The bridge pier lighting is now fully functional, adding an aesthetic element to the project. There are a few other punchlist items to finish as well, and we anticipate final project closeout this May,” he said.

Route 52 Constructors engaged a number of subcontractors for the job.

Major subcontractors include Bayshore Rebar of Pleasantville, N.J. (rebar installation), West Bay Construction Inc. of Linwood, N.J. (railing installation), Delta Line Construction Company of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (electrical work), RMS Construction LLC of Stamford, Conn. (building construction), Alliance Landscaping Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M. (landscape work) and Assuncao Brother Inc. of Edison, N.J. (concrete flatwork).

(Editor’s note: CEG is saddened to report that Dave Yingling, of American Pile Driving Equipment Inc., who was interviewed for this story, died recently of cancer. He was 45. We at CEG express our condolences to Dave’s family, friends and coworkers.)

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