Cranes help build bridges to Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail line

November 08, 2017

A nearly decade-long federal push to upgrade railroad tracks and bring high-speed rail service between the Midwest metropolises of Chicago and St. Louis is getting closer to fruition. Central Contractors Service of Crestwood, Ill., a member of the ALL Family of Companies, played a critical role in three recent bridge renovations and expansions related to the project.

The Illinois High Speed Rail Project is a massive undertaking, encompassing 284 miles of track governed by four separate railroad companies. The ultimate goal is to increase speed from 79 mph to 110 mph, while adding second tracks where necessary for uninterrupted two-way travel along the entire route, and upgrading stations to make train travel more attractive to the commuting public.

“The public will [also] have smoother rides…crossing and signal improvements for safety, and guarantees of better on-time performance,” according to Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. In all, the project has spanned nearly eight years and is expected to cost $2 billion.

In October, Central Contractors Service had cranes working on three rail bridges as part of upgrades to a portion of the track operated by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). The bridges, all located in Wilmington, Ill., span the Kankakee River, Water Street and Forked Creek. Cranes used included two Link-Belt TCC 1100s, a Grove GMK 3055 and a Grove GMK 7550.

The Kankakee River bridge posed an unusual challenge because of its proximity to power lines. Specified for the delicate work were two 110 USt Link-Belt TCC 1000 telecrawlers. Steel beams approximately 70 ft long, some weighing up to 113,000 lb, had to be lifted and set, giving vigilance and care to the jobsite’s many challenges. Booms were set at 40 ft and 50 ft to maintain lower clearance, each with a 37-ft hook radius.

“A temporary bridge was constructed so the 1100s could go back and forth and stay away from the power lines,” said Paul Urbanski, sales manager of Central Contractors Service.

At the Forked Creek bridge, a Grove GMK7550 was used to place abutment caps on bridge support structures. Because these had to be accessed from below, the crane was partially resting in a shallow part of the creek. A temporary structure of wood mats and stone was constructed to support its weight. With a 550 USt capacity, 264,500 lb of counterweight, and a 197-ft main boom, the crane was lifting pieces weighing approximately 40,000 lb and holding them in position for welding.

A 60 USt Grove GMK3055 with 25,000 lb of counterweight was employed for work at the Water Street bridge. With a 65-ft boom, the truck crane was used to erect outer girders, sacrificial beams and floor panels. Pick weights ranged from 6,000 lb to 18,000 lb. Water Street below was closed while the work was done.

Although the high-speed rail project is nearing completion, work remains to be done. Significant testing will be required before the faster trains are approved for public use. The Illinois Department of Transportation is hopeful that high-speed service will begin sometime in 2018.

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