Saluting excellence

Sept. 9, 2008

America’s Transportation Award recognizes achievement in the development and construction of transportation projects and instills an appreciation of transportation as a key element of our quality of life.

The awards, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), recognize the best projects in the categories of On Time, On Budget and Innovative Management.

America’s Transportation Award recognizes achievement in the development and construction of transportation projects and instills an appreciation of transportation as a key element of our quality of life.

The awards, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), recognize the best projects in the categories of On Time, On Budget and Innovative Management.

Four regional competitions were held from June through September. Awards were presented in each category for large (over $200 million), medium ($26-$199 million) and small ($25 million or less) projects.

The 36 winning entries at the regional level will be submitted to the national competition, where one winner from each category will be selected. A Grand Prize will be awarded from those final entries. A monetary award will be presented to the winning state department of transportation for donation to a university of its choice to assist a student pursuing a graduate degree in transportation. Additionally, a People’s Choice Award, to be determined by popular online vote, will fund a community service project selected by the winning state department of transportation. Awards will be presented at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Hartford, Conn., Oct. 19.

The Innovative Management award celebrates excellence in innovative management techniques and use of technology. The award recognizes new policies or procedures and creative transportation solutions that enhance the effective movement of people, goods and services; increase transportation efficiency and choices; improve safety, accessibility and aid traffic management; and enhance community life.

Floating on

One of the awards for Innovative Management, Large Project, was given to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) for its Iway Bridge Float Project.

The $610 million project earned national recognition for its unique approach to bridge building by being floated up Narragansett Bay to Providence. It was featured in the History Channel documentary series “Mega Movers”.

The Providence River Bridge is one part of Providence’s huge construction job—Contract 7 of 12—which aims to reduce congestion, improve safety and enhance the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders and visitors who travel through Providence.

Bridging the gap

The network arch bridge is the widest one of its kind in the world and the first in the U.S., RIDOT Chief Engineer Kazem Farhoumand told Roads & Bridges. The bridge is 1,250 ft long and spans both the Providence River and a portion of the east side. It comprises three distinct structural types: the 400-ft signature main span, which utilizes a network arch, which is 84 ft high; the two west spans totaling 500 ft with steel box girders 8 ft in depth; and the four east spans over land, totaling 350 ft, using prestressed concrete box beams.

“When we first looked at this bridge as far as constructability, we could identify three ways that it could be constructed,” Farhoumand said. “First, it could be constructed in place. Second, it could be constructed on one of the shores and slid into place. The last way was to assemble it elsewhere and float it up the river.

“We left it up to the contractor to decide, and they chose this way, because putting it together on land was a better option than building it in place. If something doesn’t fit, you can fix it easier. The environmental issues go away. Also, you could do the project on a parallel course.”

Basically, what the contractor ended up doing was assembling the bridge on an offsite location as they worked on the abutments and piers on the bridge.

The network arch span was built 10-12 miles away at Quonset Point, an old Navy base. The contractor, Cardi Corp., leased the area, brought all the pieces up to that site, erected it and loaded it on barges on top of self-propelled modular transporters. They floated it up the river and brought it up into place over the piers.

Looking away

RIDOT is optimistic about the future of the bridge.

“There is no such thing as maintenance-free, but we wanted to make it as maintenance-free as we possibly could,” Farhoumand said.

This included designing the ties to be bolted. Instead of welding, four plates were bolted to one another. With welding, if there is a crack, it could travel to other surfaces. Bolts do not create that problem.

Portions of the bridge also were spray-painted white so inspections will be easier. The bridge is metalized—molten zinc was sprayed on, which is more beneficial than being dipped in it because there can be additional layers.

The bridge will carry four lanes of traffic in each direction but can be restriped in the future to carry five. Two eastbound lanes are currently open on the bridge. In 2009, the bridge will be completed, and all lanes will be open by the end of the year. The entire project, which began in 2003, is expected to be completed in 2012.

Trucking away

Another regional winner award for Innovative Management, Medium Project, was given to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for its Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge in Rochester.

The $38 million steel bridge was put together in sections. The 27 total steel pieces were trucked up individually from High Steel Structures Inc. in Lancaster, Pa.

“They had to get a special permit and go a special way,” Lori Maher, a public information officer with NYSDOT, told Roads & Bridges. “The pieces were so heavy that they couldn’t go over some other bridges that were on the route. Then they waited until they were placed on the huge crane and were lifted into place.”

The original bridge was constructed in 1954. In 1996, NYSDOT commissioned Erdman, Anthony and Associates to perform an in-depth bridge inspection and structural evaluation.

“Its life was over,” Maher said. “We looked at it and found a lot of deterioration. It was 42 years old. The bridge carries I-490 through downtown Rochester, and it gets about 100,000 vehicles a day. There were leaky deck joints, a delaminated structural slab, fatigue cracking, some rusting—the bridge had pretty much just run its course.”

Tracking footprints

“We found that the expense to rehab or repair the bridge would be higher than a full replacement,” Maher added. “We looked at some different options. We looked at the footprint of the bridge and decided we didn’t really have the desire or need to modify any of those features, so we stuck in the footprint that was there.”

NYSDOT decided there was not enough room to have a four-rib arch without major reconstruction work. So it was decided to do a triple arch and just make it one piece, so there would be an eastbound and a westbound, all in one structure. The new eight-span structure is 1,194 ft long.

Along with replacing the aging bridge, the project also created a new icon for the city.

For input on the design, NYSDOT relied on an aesthetics committee comprising representatives from county and city government, the Arts and Cultural Council, the Greater Rochester Visitors Association and the American Institute of Architects. Early on in the design process, the committee decided that the site deserved a signature span that frames the river as well as the city skyline.

One of NYSDOT’s biggest challenges on the project was that they had never built anything like it before. It is an unusual design, Maher said.

Most arches built in the last several decades have been tied arches, which do not require large foundations, but in many cases, the tie becomes deeper than the arch rib in order to resist arch thrust. Therefore, the committee opted for a true-arch design instead. Since extremely competent dolomite bedrock is located within 13.1 ft from the ground surface, the thrusts from the arch ribs can be transferred directly into the foundations. As a result, it was determined that a true, two-hinged arch would be aesthetically pleasing as well as practical.

“We had to replace the bridge, so we wanted to have a good piece of infrastructure to cross the river, but we also wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing, and we were able to accomplish that,” Maher said. The skyline is the most photogenic. “It’s on all our postcards. So we were able to make it a little bit nicer, though still functional.”

Because of the heavy traffic on the bridge, another challenge was maintaining traffic throughout the construction phase. NYSDOT was able to build the new bridge above, around, underneath and surrounding the old bridge.

“With the first year of construction, a lot of people didn’t even know we were out there working, because we were working on the foundations,” Maher said. “We were actually able to build the new bridge right next to the old one.”

At one point, the expressway closed during a weekend. A full closure is not something NYSDOT does very often, but they did a lot of outreach and communication and posted a detour.

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