The project team of the $178 million “Replacement of the Northbound Whitestone Expressway/Flushing River Bridge Replacement Project” faces numerous challenges, according to John Elias, the engineer-in-charge of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Region 11, Long Island City, N.Y.
This comprehensive project includes rehabilitation of the southbound Whitestone Expressway for approximately .5 mi. (.8 km) to the southbound Van Wyck Expressway. Elias said work will include replacement of the existing concrete deck and concrete and steel columns.
The new concrete and structural steel bridge will carry two lanes of traffic 0.5 mi. over Northern Boulevard in Flushing, N.Y. It also includes new lighting and drainage, Elias explained.
The project’s scope of work also includes construction of a new northbound Van Wyck Expressway ramp .75 mi. (1.2 km) to the northbound Whitestone Expressway.
Elias said this work will feature a new hybrid design that will consist of high performance steel and reinforced concrete.
The hybrid design will be used for the 300-ft. (91 m) long, two-lane span over the Flushing River. The rest of the Flushing River Bridge will use conventional steel and reinforced concrete. The new bridge, which also will get new lighting and drainage, will span .75 mi. over Northern Boulevard.
The project’s plans also call for rehabilitation of the northbound and southbound Whitestone Expressway from Linden Place to Third Avenue. This work will consist of on-grade asphalt paving, new drainage, new lighting, an Intelligent Transportation Signage System, concrete median barriers and new guardrails.
In addition, construction of a new Linden Place exit ramp would be located between the northbound Astoria Boulevard and the northbound Van Wyck Expressway. This structure would total .25 mi. (.4 km) in length and consist of the hybrid design, conventional steel, reinforced concrete, new lighting and new drainage.
Additionally, work called for removing an existing bascule bridge located between I-678 South and I-678 North. This is an existing northbound Whitestone Expressway structure that spans five lanes over the Flushing River and carries 85,000 vehicles daily.
Elias said that the project has had many project challenges, including simultaneous construction of newly realigned ramp on the northbound Van Wyck Expressway while maintaining all five lanes of traffic during construction.
The solution to this challenge included “working nights and changing the design to accommodate the interference of the existing bascule bridge towers. The design change called for modifications to remove some portions of the bascule bridge and the installation of temporary railings and barriers for traffic. It also consists of redesigned brackets that hold and support the new barriers in place,” Elias explained.
Pile driving also was challenging because 2-ft. (.6 m) diameter piles had to be driven 110 ft. (33.5 m) deep using diesel hammers.
In addition, “We also had to splice the piles in three locations because of interference from an existing structure,” he said.
Another project challenge was erecting the steel from the water as well as the length of some sections. The solution was to use cranes on barges in the water to erect the steel and erection of false work in the river to support the tub grinders specified for this part of the project.
Moving utilities also posed some difficulties “particularly the 24-inch diameter high pressure gas mains,” said Elias. The solution required coordinating efforts with Consolidated Edison of New York, relocating the gas mains, and monitoring vibrations during construction, especially during pile driving. He said that specialized equipment was used to monitor vibrations.
Elias said he expected the project team to encounter other obstacles including removal of the existing bascule tower because it is located between two newly constructed bridges and construction of a detour roadway for the southbound Van Wyck Expressway.
“We need to minimize the impact of the removal [of the bascule tower]. To do this, some work will be done by work crews on barges and some crews will work on the ground,” explained Elias.
During construction of the 800-ft. (244 m) detour roadway for the southbound Van Wyck Expressway, two lanes of traffic must be maintained during construction.
Community outreach and periodic project team meetings also are key to the project. A task force was formed to address community concerns. Meetings are held on an as needed basis with members of the community. Project team meetings are held weekly.
Elias said that the primary heavy construction equipment used on the project to date includes: a Manitowoc 4100 W and 2250 cranes; a Liebherr 1400 crane; a Caterpillar M315 TB24 excavator; a John Deere 595D excavator; a JLG 660 SJT lift; and a Caterpillar 966G loader.
In addition to NYSDOT Region 11, other project team members include the Tully-Pegno Joint Venture of Flushing, N.Y., general contractor; and Hardesty & Hanover Associates and Vollmer Associates, both based in New York City, design engineers.
The project, which began February 2003 is expected to be completed November 2008. CEG