A river runs under it

Feb. 12, 2015

The Thomas Buford Pugh Memorial Bridge spans the New River Gorge National River on Rte. 41 in the town of Prince, W. Va. The bridge is a two-lane, three-span, through-truss style that carries traffic white-knuckle high over the whitewater New River. One of the oldest rivers in North America and today overseen by the National Park Service, it has carved the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains. But the bridge, built in 1931, had just about reached the end of its lifespan.

Routine inspection in 2001 determined the existing structure to be functionally obsolete and to have major substructure and superstructure deficiencies. A multiyear study was undertaken by the West Virginia Department of Transportation/Division of Highways and the Federal Highway Administration to outline the detailed repair plan. Officials decided that a replacement span should be constructed downstream from the original structure; this would prevent the detouring of automobile traffic for as much as 57 miles.

After another inspection in 2011, traffic was restricted to one lane and bridge weight limits were reduced from 15 tons to 3 tons. Work commenced in November 2014 as the replacement bridge’s new support beams were installed. Orders Construction Company of St. Albans, W. Va, hired ALL Crane & Equipment Rental Corp., a member of the ALL Family of Companies, to provide crane service for this important and intricate job. The two companies have collaborated on many projects during their longstanding relationship.

ALL was to lift and set the replacement bridge’s beams — slow and careful work with zero room for error, only lifting and setting one or two beams per day. From ALL’s extensive fleet, two mid-capacity all-terrain cranes were selected: a 350t Grove GMK6350 and a 275t Link-Belt ATC-3275. The 350t AT, which stayed on the job throughout the project duration, worked from a special causeway built by the customer to enable it to place the bridge’s beams across the entire span of the river. ALL also provided a 230t Manitowoc 888 crawler crane to set beams at the end of the bridge.

“It was a very tough site to access and provided unique challenges, but we were able to accommodate all of our customer’s crane needs,” said Jason Thomas, sales manager for ALL Crane & Equipment Rental Corp. “We were pleased to assist, and everything went as planned.”

Once the beams were in place, work on the replacement bridge was able to continue. The span is scheduled for completion in late spring of this year. Updates on closures and progress are posted on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/neri.

The right equipment and skilled operators when you need them for even the toughest jobs: that is the ALL Family of Companies.

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