Changing the Interchange

Tara Vantimmeren / November 16, 2007

Milwaukee’s Marquette Interchange project, an effort to improve the section at which I-43, I-94 and I-794 meet in the city’s downtown area, is Wisconsin’s most expensive project at $810 million.

It is the first project of its scope and size to be completed while continuously maintaining traffic flow. It is an example of how valuable a specific piece of equipment—in this case, an aerial lift—can be to a single project. With more than 30 units at work throughout virtually every facet of the project, man lifts are playing a critical role in keeping this massive undertaking moving along, handling a broad range of duties ranging from demolition to girder erection and everything in between.

If the Marquette Interchange differs in a huge way from the majority of highway projects undertaken around the country, it is in sheer size and complexity. Traditional projects might call for the reconstruction of a bridge, widening of a road or construction of a new on-ramp or off-ramp. At any given time, Marquette has all that and more going on simultaneously. And the jobsite is literally teeming with the one tool common to all facets of the project: the aerial lift.

“We currently have anywhere from 25 to 30 Genie lifts working throughout the south leg and the core, and have been at that level for months,” said Brady Frederick, project manager for Marquette Constructors LLC, the joint venture heading up the project. “That need is driven by the sheer demand—companies rarely undertake a project with this many structures going up at once. Generally, a contractor will have a single crew erecting columns and setting steel. We have between eight and 10 crews just building columns on different bridges, each in a different stage of construction.” He added that they do occasionally erect stair towers for access to specific areas, but these only last a week or so before they have to be torn down and moved. “The lifts, on the other hand, allow us to gain immediate access, come down, move and do it all again—all day, every day.”

The Marquette Interchange job has an owner-controlled insurance program with stipulations demanding 100% fall/tie-off on anything above 6 ft. So, in a very real sense, the presence of aerial lifts on the site is itself driven by issues of both safety and liability.

“The lifts make compliance with the tie-off demands easy and workable,” said Frederick. “The workers then use the lifts to gain access to insert spacer diaphragms between each girder. Again, it’s that ability to be right there that makes the aerial lift invaluable.”

About the Author

All phases of the Marquette Interchange project are slated to be complete by the end of 2008.

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