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Teamwork Stressed During West Point, VA, Bridge Jobs

Tue September 26, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni



If the old proverb, “Many hands make light work,” is true, then the West Point Bridge Replacement Project should be effortless. However, all of the companies involved in the project, and there are many, would most likely agree that the job is anything but effortless.

Still, the display of teamwork at the job site is impressive, as is the effort coming from two of the biggest stars — cranes named Cape Fear and Samson.

The West Point Bridge Replacement Project is occurring in two phases that focus on two separate bridges — the Lord Delaware Bridge crossing the Mattaponi River on Route 33 and the Eltham Bridge crossing the Pamunkey River. Both bridges are located in the town of West Point, VA, within the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Fredericksburg District.

VDOT has hired Wilbur Smith Associates to act as construction manager on the West Point Bridge Replacement Project. The company’s Columbia, SC, office will be handling the management and inspection duties with Jamie Browder on site as project manager. As a joint venture, McLean Contracting Company, Glen Burnie, MD, and Bryant Contracting Inc., Toana, VA, were awarded the $37.6-million contract for Phase 1, the construction of the Lord Delaware Bridge. Tidewater Skanska Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, has been awarded an $89-million contract to build the Eltham Bridge as part of Phase 2.

Both bridges are being constructed with light weight aggregate concrete decks and post-tensioned girders. They also will have four lanes (two in each direction) and 10 ft. (3 m) shoulders. Road construction for this project includes widening the town’s main road from two to five lanes — two lanes in each direction and one turning lane.

The new Lord Delaware Bridge is a fixed-span bridge with 55 ft. (17 m) of vertical clearance at the river channel. The new structure, measuring 3,545 ft. (1,080 m) long and 68 ft. (21 m) wide, is quite an improvement over the old structure, which was 1,572 ft. (479 m) long and 26 ft. (8 m) wide.

Also included in Phase 1 is the replacement of the box culvert at West Point Creek with a five-lane single-span bridge, which will be 76 ft. (23 m) long and 70 ft. (21 m) wide with a 5-ft. (1.5 m) sidewalk on each side. On the King and Queen William counties side of the project on Route 33, Phase 1 work will consist of widening existing roadway approaches, upgrading drainage facilities and improving substandard curves and grades.

Cape Fear, a 150-ton (135 t) barge-mounted crane designed and built by McLean Contracting in 1973, has been crucial in building the Lord Delaware Bridge. Browder describes it as “one of their signature cranes.” He also said that Cape Fear has been instrumental “because of its capability of heavy lifting, especially over water.”

Al Mason, McLean’s project superintendent, said Cape Fear was used for driving piles and setting girders. The crane is especially useful when building bridges because it is permanently mounted on a barge, and it has a 360-degree swing radius.

Mason also listed other cranes that have been used to build the Lord Delaware Bridge. All of the cranes have been built by McLean or rebuilt by the company from older cranes. Many are named for the projects on which they were originally used. The Jamestown, a 250-ton (225 t) stiff leg crane, has been used for setting girders and the demolition of the old bridge. Additionally, the company supplied three smaller barge-mounted cranes: the 50-ton (45 t) Hampton Roads, the 40-ton (36 t) Consort and the 40-ton (36 t) Curtis Bay.

Of course, the work wouldn’t be completed without the help of numerous subcontractors. The concrete work was performed by Rappahannock Concrete Corp., Gloucester, VA, and the girder work was done by Bayshore Concrete Products Corp., Cape Charles, VA, and Standard Concrete Products, Savannah, GA.

Mason credits the accomplishments on the project to the construction management team hired by VDOT. “We attribute a great deal of the success on this project to Wilbur Smith Associates,” said Mason. Regarding McLean Contracting, Mason said, “We pride ourselves on completing work in a safe, timely fashion.” This is evident since there have been no lost-time accidents on this job.

The new Lord Delaware Bridge is in its final stages of completion and should meet the November 2006 deadline. The four lane bridge had two lanes open to traffic in July and the remaining lanes will open in the beginning of October. Workers also are completing the pedestrian railing and the final overlays on the approaches. Mason added that the old bridge demolition is 55 percent complete, and the project is “on schedule and on budget.”

For Phase 2, Tidewater Skanska began construction on the Eltham Bridge in late 2005 and is working toward a completion date of November 2007. Browder anticipates two lanes opening in March 2007. The Eltham is a double-leaf bascule bridge measuring 5,354 ft. (1,630 m) long and 68 ft. (21 m) wide. Without the bascule open, the bridge will have a 55-ft. (17 m) clearance.

Samson, a well-known crane built by Tidewater Skanska in the early 1970s, is a 350-ton (317 t) stiff leg barge-mounted crane. This crane is being used to set the bascule leaves. John Eskins, Tidewater Skanska’s project superintendent, said the company also has three floating cranes on the job site as well as “a couple on barges and a couple on land.” Other equipment being used right now includes pile driving hammers and vibratory hammers for the foundation work.

Presently, the company is installing the last set of the post-tensioning girders on the west side of the bridge. Workers also are pouring the bridge deck and concrete and working on the asphalt and the approaches. Rappahannock Concrete has supplied approximately 30,000 cu. yds. (23,000 cu m) of concrete for the work during this phase of the project.

Subcontractors for the Eltham Bridge include Bryant Contracting, which also was one of the general contractors for the Lord Delaware Bridge. Earthwork is being done by Howard Brothers Contractor Inc. of Lanexa, VA, and the asphalt paving is being completed by Basic Construction Company of Newport News, VA.

An important supplier to the subcontractors working on both phases of the West Point Bridge Replacement Project has been Richmond, VA-based Brett Aggregates, Inc. Pat Malaney, sales manager at Brett Aggregates, said that the project has needed “quite a bit of fill material. It was such wetlands they had to put sand down and fill on top to help with absorption,” Malaney said.

Brett Aggregates has five plant locations in addition to its headquarters. The Charles City plant has supplied at least 12,000 tons (10,900 t) of fill material to Howard Brothers and Tidewater Skanska. The Ashland plant shipped large quantities of gravel to Rappahannock Concrete for its concrete mix, while the Gloucester plant has supplied sand for the project.

The bridges are being replaced because they are approaching the end of their design life. Additionally, according to Browder, “the bridges themselves have gotten to a state where they are not economically maintainable.” The on-going maintenance and repairs has created long delays for motorists.

The contractors are contributing to the town of West Point and other localities because when the project is completed, there will be noticeable traffic improvements and quality of life improvements as a result. CEG