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Trains Keep a Rollin’ as Morris Group Spans Busy Rail

Mon December 01, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Heavy truck traffic coming in and out of the Mobile Container Terminal at Choctaw Point gets backed up by the long CSX freight trains that block Virginia Street when they chug by several times a day.

A six-span bridge being built by The Morris Group Inc. over both the CSX tracks and a spur leading into the Port of Mobile is designed to alleviate that congestion. But working around the rail traffic has been a challenge on the bridge job, which began in May, said Shane Sansom, construction superintendent of the Birmingham-based firm.

Sansom recalled how early on in the job his crew had a marathon day — working from 6 a.m. until midnight — setting beams for the span crossing the CSX tracks. One train’s later-than-expected arrival at the crossing accounted for a roughly five-hour delay.

Still, the work is running on schedule for a May 2009 completion, according to project manager Walter F. Morris Sr.

The Morris Group is actually a subcontractor for Mobile-based Hosea O. Weaver and Sons Inc. on a larger project at the new container terminal, a partnership of the Alabama State Port Authority and Mobile Container Terminal LLC. Owner for the project is the Alabama State Port Authority.

“The scope of the project is construction of an access road leading from Interstate 10 on the south side of Mobile, Ala., to the new Alabama state docks container terminal,” Morris said.

The firm’s piece of the Choctaw Point Access Road Improvements project — construction of the 767-linear-ft. (233.8 m) bridge — has a roughly $6.12 million price tag.

Gilley Construction Inc. is the subcontractor for installation of stay-in-place steel decking, Morris said. Abramson LLC of Birmingham will construct the bridge superstructure barrier rail, and ABC Cutting Contractors of Alabama will perform the bridge deck grooving.

Actual bridge construction began in May, with the first operations being test piling, load testing of piling and pile installation, Morris said. Bridge construction will not be continuous but will be delayed or interrupted by a waiting period during which one earth abutment will be constructed, he said.

Starting in early May, crews have been working in stages starting where the bridge will meet Virginia Street, building columns, and then setting precast metal beams to link the columns, Sansom said.

Workers drive the piling, then build a footer about 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall with 24 piles, then come up with the cap and column. So far, five concrete columns have been constructed.

No artifacts or hard dirt have been encountered on the job, Morris said.

However, existing material at each abutment must have drainage wicks installed prior to placing the abutment fill to eliminate possible subsiding of the earth fill.

A total of 2,240 cu. yd. (1,712.6 cu m) of bridge concrete will be placed, Morris said.

The firm is not doing any asphalt work on the job.

So far, the job has been worked an average of 50 hours per week, with the number of employees on the job varying with the operations being performed.

It has probably averaged about a dozen workers, Sansom said on a recent day, when workers were setting beams to link the fourth and fifth columns. They were setting two beams per day, each of them coming in two pieces that had to be spliced together with bolts.

Primary items of equipment for the project are two Link-Belt 110-ton (99.8 t) crawler cranes. One is a Link-Belt LS 218 HII, and one is a Link-Belt LS 218 H5, both obtained from Atlantic & Southern Equipment on a lease-to-own basis.

“Cranes, of course, are the most important pieces of equipment for bridge construction and are used for operations such as pile driving, placing concrete and structural steel erection,” Morris said. “This job consists of three continuous structural steel units; each unit consists of two bridge spans. All structural beams are fabricated steel girders and were erected by our forces using the two Link-Belt LS 218 cranes.”

Structural steel bridge girders were supplied by Carolina Steel Group LLC and fabricated in Montgomery, Ala.

Other equipment assigned to the job includes a Komatsu PC 220 LC crawler excavator and a Komatsu D39 dozer, both obtained from Tractor and Equipment Co., and a 23-ton (20.8 t) Manitex boom truck and a TL 1255 Caterpillar lift, both obtained from Thompson Tractor Co.

The Cat lift is a very versatile piece of equipment, Sansom said. With its fork attachment, it’s being used a lot on the job to tote equipment.

With its man basket, Sansom said, among other tasks, workers can use it to reach the bearing pad of a column as a crane is lowering a beam onto it.

Foundation piling for the job was driven by a Delmag D30-32 diesel pile hammer, which The Morris Group rented from Pile Equipment Inc.

Numerous smaller items of equipment, including air compressors, aerial lifts and welding machines, also are being used on the project.

Among the lifts are three Genie S-40s, handy to get up to work like splicing together the precast metal beams with bolts.

While the firm has had its own technician servicing equipment, in some cases, it has been done by the local equipment dealers in Mobile, Morris said.

The project will provide great access into the Alabama State Port Authority’s newly constructed container terminal.

Meanwhile, because of its location, detours or rerouting of existing traffic will cause minimal or no inconvenience to the traveling public and surrounding businesses in the area, he said.

While the trains can get in the way of work progress — and add to the noise level at the job — measures are taken so they don’t pose any danger, Sansom said.

He said they keep a CSX flagman on site, and the flagman gives them a 20-minute warning when a train is scheduled to pass so they can move equipment out of the way.

And, of course, building a span over train tracks instead of a body of water means one doesn’t have the risk of dropping things into the water, Sansom said.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at CEG

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