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Smooth Sailing for I-90 Bridge Project

Tue September 06, 2005 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Rupp



Just miles south of Lake Erie runs Interstate 90. On a good day, highway travelers can look out their car windows and see the deep blue water dotted with sailboats and, once in a while, the Brig Niagara.

This summer, as motorists drive through bridge reconstruction near the Pennsylvania/Ohio border, however, it’s safer to keep their eyes on the road. The 1.5-mi. (2.41 km) project, located between Route 98/Fairview and Route18/Girard, began in March 2005 and is scheduled for completion October 2006. A total of six structures (three sets of bridges) are being replaced. The structures involved are over Halls Run/Township Road and the B&LE Railroad; over South Creek Road; and over Elk Creek, all in Girard Township. The 2005 phase of construction is focused on the eastbound lanes whereby traffic has been temporarily detoured to the westbound lanes.

The work includes excavation, roadway widening and approach paving, four steel structures, two pre-stressed concrete structures, minor drainage and guide rail/traffic control.

“The structures being replaced have advanced deterioration on the piers and dams,” said Michele Morningstar, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) project manager. In addition to refurbishment, the bridges also are being widened to eventually carry three lanes of traffic.

Mekis Construction of Fenelton, PA, was awarded the $17-million project. Despite excessive time being spent on the bridge removals, Mekis is still on schedule. Advanced deterioration required Mekis to saw cut the existing bridge deck into sections, which could be lifted individually by cranes from the ground below. The last span of the Hall’s Run Bridge had a much more deteriorated pair of columns for the girders to rest on. Deviation from the planned method of girder removal was required so the safety of the workers would not be sacrificed.

For this reason, Job Superintendent Ray Tressler made the decision to pre-cut the steel floor system, hook to the girders with two excavators, and pull them off existing deteriorated columns to the ground below. The girders were cut into manageable sections and hauled away for scrap.

Tressler listed several cranes being used on the project, including a Lima 700 truck crane, a Lima 700 crawler crane, a 110-ton (99.8 t) Link-Belt crane, and four Grove hydraulic all-terrain cranes. In addition, Mekis utilized four Komatsu 300 excavators, three John Deere 710 backhoes and two Caterpillar high lifts, a Caterpillar D-3 and D-5 bulldozer for its portion of the project.

A handful of subcontractors were hired to collaborate with Mekis Construction on various parts of the highway refurbishment. Mayer Brothers Construction Company in Erie, PA, is working on the excavation, asphalt paving and drainage. Structural Services Inc. is assisting with the placement of structural steel. Replacing guiderails and seeding are being performed by Green Acres Contracting Company Inc., of Scottdale, PA. Protection Services Inc. of Cambridge Springs is in charge of traffic control, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police.

The contractors have a staff of approximately 60 workers, but the number fluctuates as operations change. They are currently working four 10-hour shifts, with Fridays and Saturdays as needed. During excavation, 40,000 cu. yds. (30,582 cu m) of soil was taken out. More than 5,000 cu. yds. (3,823 cu m) of concrete will be used, along with 20,000 tons (18,144 t) of Superpave asphalt pavement.

Traffic through on the 1.5-mi. stretch has been flowing smoothly as well. Two message boards are being utilized, one from the east and one from the west, to alert travelers of the upcoming construction. There also is an overhead sign for eastbound motorists crossing over the Ohio line into Pennsylvania. This sign may be used for heavy traffic delays or in case of an accident, but the need has not risen at this point in the project.

“So far we have been very fortunate that the traffic backups have been limited to holiday weekends and sporadic afternoons. The workzone is very compact, which keeps the traffic moving rather efficiently. Just as they realize they are in a workzone, they are nearly through it,” said Morningstar. CEG