CASE STUDY: Cleveland’s Innerbelt Bridge hosts flock of cranes

July 16, 2014

In Cleveland, July’s last fireworks display will bring the house down. Or, in this case, the massive 55-year-old Innerbelt bridge that for a generation connected the city to its western neighborhoods. For now, crews are in the final stages of months of mechanical deconstruction work that, when complete, will culminate with one final boom. Detonation charges will be placed at precise spots in order to implode the framework onto itself, leaving behind a pile of giant steel matchsticks.

To prepare for the big finale, huge sections of the bridge had to be detensioned and then lifted away by massive cranes to prevent debris from falling into the Cuyahoga River below or onto the railroad tracks, businesses and communities over which the structure soars. The Great Lakes Construction Co. and the Ruhlin Co. (together, TGR) have been preparing since fall 2013 for this complex dismantling process. TGR subcontractor Joseph B. Fay, a demolition and earthwork specialist, contacted the All Erection & Crane Rental Corp. for assistance. The crane company is headquartered in Cleveland, with 37 branches across North America.

“The bridge stretches 4,000 ft over important infrastructure,” said Mike LiPuma, sales and lift manager for the All Erection & Crane Rental Corp. “We really approached this as though it were several major work zones instead of a single project. With tight timelines, we had 12 or more major cranes plus operators and support crew working at different underlying areas, and every lift was a critical lift.”

At one of these jobsites on the river’s east bank, massive pieces of the bridge were held in place by two of All’s 500-ton all-terrain cranes, one a Liebherr LTM 1400 7.1 and the other a Demag AC1300. Steelworkers in man baskets were boomed up and over the 500-tonners and suspended hundreds of feet above the river by two of All’s smaller ATs, a 225-ton Grove GMK 5225 configured with 219 ft of main boom and an 85-ft jib and a 265-ton Grove GMK 5275 outfitted with 197 ft of main boom and a 118-ft jib. From the man baskets, crews cut the suspended pieces into smaller parts, and each cutaway piece was then skillfully lowered to the ground by the 500-ton units.

On the opposite bank of the river, two hydraulic cranes worked with a third crane, a 200-ton barge-mounted Link-Belt LS-248H II lattice boom crawler crane, on a unique kind of fishing expedition. The two hydros each supported baskets from which steelworkers cut away sections of the bridge that had been rigged with cable chokers and buoys. Each cutaway piece was then dropped into the river. Once several pieces were floating, the barge moved in. From the deck of the barge, All’s Link-Belt carefully fished the floating pieces out by their cables and placed them on the riverbank.

At another expanse of the bridge, two of All’s heavy-duty AT cranes—a 600-ton Liebherr LTM 1500 8.1 and a 500-ton Liebherr LTM 1400 7.1—worked together to dismantle pieces continuously for more than two months. These huge ATs became a featured part of the skyline for the 140,000-plus motorists passing daily through the construction corridor into and out of the city.

Perhaps the highest-pressure job took place over two weekends in June, including scheduled shutdowns of both the light-rail-line tracks underneath the bridge (Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Authority/RTA) and on a portion of the Cuyahoga River (directed by the Coast Guard). Before work above the tracks could begin, a steel-and-hardwood canopy was built onsite over the RTA tracks to protect them from any falling debris. Cranes and crews worked around the clock both weekends to minimize service disruption. Here, multiple girders and the bridge’s on-ramps were cut apart by steelworkers in man baskets, with the dismantling and removal handled by two crawler cranes: a 300-ton Manitowoc 2250 S-3 lattice boom crawler with 200 ft of main boom, and a 230-ton Manitowoc 888 S-2 crawler with 160 ft of main boom.

Only the steel skeleton and the massive piers it sits on should be left when deconstruction work is complete. Barring any unforeseen delays, the remaining spans of this historic bridge were to be ready for implosion on July 12. The demolition and construction are expected to cost $273 million.

Zeller is in marketing communications at All Erection & Crane Rental Corp., Cleveland.

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