Two cranes are better than one for river-spanning bridge pick in Ohio

March 23, 2021

The Lorain County Parks system has long wanted to connect Cascade Park and Elywood Park in Elyria, Ohio, which are separated only by the Black River.

A recently completed walking and bicycle bridge over the waterway finally makes that dream a reality. Dubbed the Cascade Bridge, it becomes part of the Black River Bikeway along the North Coast Inland Trail.

Getting to this point was not as simple as it sounds. Conventional wisdom dictated setting the 166-ft bridge span as a single piece, using an individual high-capacity crane (in the 800-ton range). But bridge contractor, Youngstown Bridge & Iron, believed it would be more efficient to use two smaller cranes to lift the bridge as two pieces and hold them as a rare mid-air splice was performed. The thinking was this approach would save time and cost less … and both proved true.

ALL Erection & Crane Rental, a member of the ALL Family of Companies, provided the two 550-ton capacity cranes for the job, a Liebherr LTM 1450-8.1 and a Grove GMK7550. 

The Liebherr needed to be positioned below, in the Black River, requiring special ground preparations. First, general contractor J.D. Williamson constructed a cofferdam to pump water out and create a dry working environment. Next, they brought in several truckloads of rock to strengthen the ground and distribute the weight of the equipment. Rocks were also used to form a ramp connecting this “island” to the river bank. (The rock was recovered and hauled away after work was complete.)

The Liebherr was configured with 122 ft of main boom and 295,500 lb of counterweight to accommodate its 177,000-lb load. The Grove GMK7550 was positioned on the upper bridge abutment, configured with 131 ft of main boom, capacity-enhancing MegaWingLift attachment, and 352,700 lb of counterweight for its 90-ft, 122,000-lb load. 

The bridge, made of steel tube, was delivered to the site in six sections, each approximately 50 to 60 ft long. The individual sections were mostly assembled on the ground, until they formed two longer pieces. Each crane picked one of the two longer pieces made of smaller sections and held them aloft as the mid-air splice was performed.

Typically, when bridge pieces are connected after being lifted, there is some sort of structure, even if it’s temporary, where the seam can be rested as connecting work is done. Not here. Because of the bridge’s steel tube construction, the male and female ends needed to slide into one another before bolting the sections to make the splice. That meant holding the sections in the air while the steady hands of ALL’s veteran operators performed the action.

After the connection was made, ironworkers finished the job by torquing the bolts at the joints that had been formed. Later, the Liebherr LTM 1450 was used on its own to set a final bridge piece that was not over water. 

“This job demonstrates that using one crane isn’t always the most efficient approach,” said Brian Meek, equipment specialist for ALL. “In this case, using a single 800-ton crane would have required more ground prep, a bigger pad, and more time. By using the two 550s, the work was done in about half the time.”


Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Infrastructure Group are not liable for the accuracy, efficacy and validity of the claims made in this piece. The views expressed in this content do not reflect the position of the Roads & Bridges' Editorial Team.

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