Bridges to solutions

Dec. 18, 2008

For more than 50 years, the bridge at Rigolets Pass, just east of New Orleans, has spanned nearly 3,900 ft over Lake Pontchartrain. The bridge, which is located just before the waterway opens up into the Gulf of Mexico, lays at the edge of Fort Pike, a Confederate post built during the Civil War.

When the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development deemed the old bridge, made of concrete and steel girders with multiple truss spans, inadequate for the purpose of hurricane evacuation from New Orleans, construction began on a replacement bridge.

For more than 50 years, the bridge at Rigolets Pass, just east of New Orleans, has spanned nearly 3,900 ft over Lake Pontchartrain. The bridge, which is located just before the waterway opens up into the Gulf of Mexico, lays at the edge of Fort Pike, a Confederate post built during the Civil War.

When the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development deemed the old bridge, made of concrete and steel girders with multiple truss spans, inadequate for the purpose of hurricane evacuation from New Orleans, construction began on a replacement bridge.

Hurricane Katrina, however, delayed both the new construction and the demolition of the old bridge.

When demolition began, Massman Construction, Kansas City, Mo., was hired as the general contractor for the job. Requiring an experienced subcontractor to remove existing concrete, Massman turned to demolition expert Greg Bair of Overland Park, Kan.

Over the last 17 years, Bair’s company, Greg Bair Track Hoe Service Inc., has specialized in the rock-breaking and demolition business.

It depends on an experienced crew and a fleet of 24 machines, including several Kobelco excavators .

“We take pride in the quality of our fleet, which has grown from two to 24 machines in 17 years,” said Bair. “Our 17 excavators are an important part of the business. We’re under deadlines and sometimes face big challenges with these jobs, so we count on them to perform with power and precision to help us complete some of our toughest jobs.”

Bair and his crew headed to Louisiana on Feb. 4, 2008, with Kobelco SK210 , SK250 and SK295 Acera Mark 8 excavators. Straight off a 13-hour teardown of another bridge in Independence, Mo., Bair was eager to take on the challenge at Rigolets Pass, scheduled to be finished by April.

Once in place, Bair’s crew began using the three excavators, along with an Atlas Copco 3000 hydraulic breaker attachment and an MPK processor, to break concrete away from the steel girders spanning the movable trusses. The concrete fell to a waiting barge for transport. Once the concrete is completely removed, each truss will be removed and taken by barge to be recycled at another destination.

The concrete itself is being put to a very interesting and admirable use. During Hurricane Katrina, the sea wall that had protected Fort Pike was almost entirely washed away. Bair’s crew is reusing the concrete by piling it up to reconstruct the original sea wall.

One big challenge for Bair’s crew is the deteriorated state of the old bridge. Bringing heavy machinery onto the structure took careful planning, and the crew has to execute the demolition gently and precisely, especially in the more heavily damaged areas of the bridge.

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