NO. 1 BRIDGE: More heroics on the Hudson

Nov. 4, 2016

Even Capt. Sullenberger would marvel at giant span over water

Nothing about the New NY Bridge project is an abbreviation, but there should be at least one.

They call the skyscraper-on-water mega crane on the job I Lift NY, with the NY standing for the New NY Bridge. However, this heavy equipment Hercules probably could come close to lifting the entire state of N.Y. The crane is capable of hoisting 1,900 tons at once, and comes with a 950-ton arm. It takes a highly skilled team to run the super crane’s many systems. Two operators and a crew of mechanics and deck hands work together to ensure that every lift is carried out safely and efficiently. The operators utilize two separate sets of controls—one to control the lift of the boom and another to control the movement of the barge. Because the super crane does not swing like most cranes, the second operator manipulates a series of eight anchor lines to pivot the entire barge into place. Precise communication between the operators is essential, and the crane operates at a slower pace than smaller cranes in order to safely handle mammoth lifts in the sometimes-challenging conditions of the Hudson River.

“When dealing with loads of this size, you really need to take your time,” operator Ronald Burgess told Roads & Bridges. “Even the crane goes into a slower operating mode to ensure a safe and successful lift.”

There are 134 girder assemblies needed for the new bridge. The assemblies are made up of individual girders in two- or three-member units. Each span gets one two-unit assembly and one three-unit assembly, and they range from 290 ft to 410 ft in length. Each span is made up of five girders.

At press time, the I Lift NY crane was enjoying a bit of a lighter operating load. After placing the final blue steel girder assembly for the new westbound approach span, the crane started installing road deck panels on the eastbound bridge (Rockland approach) in late October.

The numbers behind the New NY Bridge—this year’s No. 1 project on the 2016 Roads & Bridges Top 10 Bridges list—belong in a bridge construction Hall of Fame:

  • The length of each span is 3.1 miles;
  • A total of 86 piers (43 per span);
  • Tower height is 419 ft;
  • Main span length is 2,230 ft;
  • 192 stay cables, 190 ft to 623 ft long;
  • Total stay cable length laid end to end is 14 miles;
  • Total length of steel girders is 30 miles end to end; and
  • 6,933 total road deck panels.

In late October, the westbound towers were reaching their final height of 419 ft above the Hudson River, and prime contractor Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC) was in the process of removing the first pair of the project’s mobile jump forms. Crews were expected to have all four westbound towers complete in early November.

TZC also was installing the new westbound span’s stay-cable system. The stay cables are comprised of numerous steel strands tightly packed in a protective sheath. Precast concrete deck panels are being placed on the erected steel sections, which will support the new roadway deck.

Over the next three months TZC will address the following:

  • Completion of the westbound towers;
  • Removal of the jump forms on the westbound towers;
  • Installation of stay cables;
  • Installation of road deck panels on the approaches and main span;
  • Placement of the final overlay on the roadway on the approach spans; and
  • Completion of the foundation work for the New York Thruway Authority maintenance facility in Tarrytown.

A drainage project in Tarrytown is creating a retention pond to manage storm-water runoff in the area near the new bridge’s forecast.

Dealing with Mother Nature has already proved to be challenging. The harsh weather of the 2014-15 winter season was especially taxing on everyone involved in the project. There have been sub-zero cold snaps and white-out blizzards, and furious thunderstorms and sweltering heat waves have been difficult to deal with in the warmer months.

“Building two 3-mile bridges across the Hudson River is an enormous undertaking, particularly with the challenging weather conditions that often exist on the water,” New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas of the New York Thruway Authority told Roads & Bridges. “Ensuring the safety of the workers and the public has always been our top priority and we are extremely proud of the exceptional safety record on this historic project.”

Project: The New NY Bridge

Location: South Nyack, N.Y.

Owner: The New York State Thruway Authority

Designer: Tappan Zee Constructors LLC, a consortium

Cost: $3.9 billion

Length: 3.1 miles

Completion Date: 2018

About The Author: Wilson is editorial director for Roads & Bridges.

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