Out with the old, making way for the new

May 21, 2014

The George V. Voinovich (formerly “Innerbelt”) bridge is a vital link into downtown Cleveland, serving 140,000 motorists each day. The structure that created this link for more than a generation is now all but gone.


The George V. Voinovich (formerly “Innerbelt”) bridge is a vital link into downtown Cleveland, serving 140,000 motorists each day. The structure that created this link for more than a generation is now all but gone.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is in the midst of replacing the 1959 pratt deck truss bridge with two nearly identical spans – the first designed to carry westbound traffic, the second to carry eastbound traffic. The westbound structure is complete, with both eastbound and westbound traffic temporarily sharing the expanse. However, before construction can begin on the eastbound span, the old Innerbelt bridge structure has to be removed – without dropping anything into the underlying Cuyahoga River, or onto the railroad tracks, businesses and communities in downtown Cleveland over which the structure soars. That means some heavy lifting is needed, so project leaders called on ALL Erection & Crane Rental to partner with them on handling this critically important endeavor.

ODOT is using a unique design-build process in which the design and construction of the project are combined under a single contract. The project’s general contractor, a joint venture between Trumbull Corp., The Great Lakes Construction Co. and The Ruhlin Co. (together, TGR) along with designer URS Corp., have been preparing since fall 2013 for this complex dismantling process, and the big swings and small ball required therein. TGR subcontractor Joseph B. Fay, a demolition and earthwork specialist, contacted ALL Crane for assistance.

"Control the tension" is the operational philosophy at play in bridge removal. In the case of Cleveland’s truss-style bridge, the piers of the cantilever truss aren’t holding the bridge up––they’re holding it down.

“This is similar to the strings on a violin – they are able to emit sound because of the tension on the strings,” said Mike LiPuma, sales and lift manager for the ALL Erection & Crane Rental Corp. “You can’t just cut the strings; the energy suddenly released by such a move would cause them to fly away dangerously in many directions.”

Since the fall, crews have been removing the pavement on the upper deck to lighten the bridge’s load, thus reducing the tension. Next, they’ll isolate the steel supports.

“They apply ‘isolations’ to the hinges, allowing the structure to hold together while steel workers carefully cut the structure apart into more manageable sections that can then be lifted away. That’s where our cranes come in,” said LiPuma. “We have been so impressed by these demolition experts. Safety is their primary concern, controlling tensions until the bridge can be cut without whipping apart. We’ve worked together on projects throughout the region and our philosophies mesh well: do it once, do it right.”

Due to the size of the bridge, this project requires deploying big cranes; the bridge stretches 5,078 ft, creating an expansive work zone. Currently, ALL’s 500-ton Liebherr LTM1400-7.1 and 500-ton Demag AC1300 are onsite, along with a 55-ton Grove GMK3055. But that’s just the start.

“We have two more ATs coming – a 500 tonner and 225-ton unit,” said LiPuma. “In May or June, we’ll also add three crawlers onto the site; a Manitowoc 2250 (300 ton) and a Manitowoc 888 (230 ton) are scheduled, as well as one of our new Link-Belt 238 HSL (150 ton).”

The Liebherr LTM1400-7.1, with 197 ft of main boom, 69 ft of jib, 308,600 lb of counterweight and its Guided Boom suspension attachment for extra capacity, and the Demag AC1300, with 190 ft of boom, 65 ft of jib, 269,000 lb of counterweight and the capacity-enhancing Superlift attachment, are currently the workhorses at the site. Positioned near the Norfolk Southern tracks, these huge cranes remove cutaway sections of bridge. Most sections weigh around 50,000 lb, though some can weigh as much as 100,000 lb.

LiPuma said that determining weights, binding critical parts and de-tensioning efforts all work together to ensure smooth operations while maintaining safety. “Every lift is a critical lift,” explained LiPuma. “Fay’s engineers, the iron worker’s superintendent on the site, and ALL – we all have to plan carefully and cohesively. We need to ensure we have the right equipment available for the right weights and in the right locations and with the right working radii.” Such teamwork is crucial on a project like this, with critical timing of all elements necessary to ensure success.

Fast and assured access to the required cranes was important to Fay, and ALL’s headquarters location, minutes away from the landmark Cleveland project, made the company an easy choice.

The company's operator and associative lift team follows their cranes to the jobsite, where they operate and maintain the cranes themselves. “We keep our experts with their cranes, particularly for the larger equipment,” said LiPuma. “Their familiarity with the equipment is extremely valuable while on the jobsite.”

This bridge’s significance can’t be overstated. The Voinovich provides downtown access to the city’s west side communities and pass-through access from the nation’s northeast region, along the Great Lakes corridor, through Cleveland, and on to the country’s heartland.

“You can’t easily move from Buffalo through to Detroit, Chicago or places further west without making your way across the Voinovich,” explained LiPuma.

Expected remaining cost of the project, including removal of the old span and final construction of the eastbound bridge, is expected to be just shy of $273 million. Deconstruction of the former Innerbelt is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014.

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