By Bruce Landis
Sunday, October 21, 2007 | Providence Journal
Thousands of people turned out yesterday to walk on, photograph and show their children the state’s new bridge, the light blue-green arch over the Providence River.
The state Department of Transportation put the bridge, and part of the new sections of Route 195 on either end, on display for the morning. Visitors got a chance to see a portion of what will cost taxpayers an estimated $610 million: a spanking new concrete highway passing over a graceful steel arch bridge. The background was a striking view down Providence Harbor.
The experience, on a quiet morning with a gentle breeze, was a first and probably last chance for the public, because the construction site is normally off-limits and the bridge will shortly carry interstate traffic day and night. The view will remain, if only for a moment for people passing by.
“It’s like a giant block party,” Providence resident Beatrice Parker said happily on her way out.
“I’m delighted with this opportunity” to have “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said another visitor, Kathleen Liebenow, an East Side resident.
Inconspicuous in the crowd were William D. Warner, the architect on the project, and engineer Patricia D. Steere, head of bridge design for the Maguire Group, who collaborated to play key roles in making the highway and bridge look as they do.
The design they and others settled on was a network arch, which is distinguished by the diagonal pattern of the cables that hang from the arch and support the bridge deck and the beams under it.
The result is a pattern of myriad, diagonal intersections that changes when viewed from different angles. It proved irresistible to photographers yesterday.
By Bruce Landis
Sunday, August 20, 2006 | Providence Journal
Never has a public works project here been put so dramatically on display. The bridge “float,” as Department of Transportation officials refer to it, will be visible from shore on both sides of the upper Bay, and the slow pace – a few miles per hour – will make it tough to miss.
The arch bridge is the focus of a $600-million project, the relocation of more than a mile of Route 195 and its intersection with Route 95 near downtown Providence. The trip by water highlights the construction strategy and the technology being used to move the bridge, both of them unusual.
When it arrives, the arch bridge will be set onto its piers, all in one piece, in the space of a couple of days. Compared with conventional construction, the process is instantaneous.
With its three curved steel beams rising 120 feet above the Providence River, the arch will draw attention no matter how it gets there. But the parade up Narragansett Bay and other novel elements of the project flow from the decision by the Cardi Corp., the prime contractor, to build the arch in North Kingstown.
The DOT specifications didn’t require building elsewhere, and the conventional approach would have meant building the 400-foot-long arch in place, piece by piece, the same way Cardi is building the rest of the 1,235-foot bridge.
Why would Cardi want to build a 5.5-million-pound arch bridge in North Kingstown when it will carry interstate highway traffic across the Providence River, a dozen miles away? Frank Corrao III, the DOT’s deputy chief engineer, and other DOT engineers, gave several reasons:
Concurrent construction. Cardi could start assembling the arch last October, long before the bridge’s foundations – the reinforced concrete piers that will hold up each end of the arch – were finished. The piers were supposed to be completed at about that time, but ultrasound testing found two voids in one of the piers, one of them 25 feet down and the other 80 feet down. Cardi had to drill down to fill them, and the piers weren’t completed until June. Meanwhile, the arch could go ahead.
Safety and convenience. Instead of working from barges while piecing the bridge together over the river, the contractor could work on Pier 2 at Quonset – a flat area with plenty of work and storage space around it. If something fell, it wouldn’t go “splash” and sink. Cardi couldn’t bring big cranes inside the hurricane barrier, north of the bridge, and couldn’t find cranes big enough to reach all the way across the bridge from the south. The only alternative was to go to Quonset, with a nice big piece of land where we could drive our cranes around.
“This is one of the best job sites I’ve ever been [on] – it’s clean, it’s nice, its level,” said Richard Zondag, chief of operations for Mammoet, the company moving the bridge. Mammoet is the Dutch-based international mover of huge and heavy objects that achieved fame salvaging the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk from the Barents Sea in 2001.
Before moving the bridge, Mammoet needs to jack it up 30 feet, so that when it gets to Providence, it will be high enough to slide onto the tops of the piers it will rest on permanently. Mammoet will use a number of devices relatively new to U.S. construction, “self-propelled modular transporters,” steel platforms with lots of wheels under them. The company uses a variety of them regularly to quickly haul things such as offshore oil rigs and sections of nuclear power plants. One of the transporters at Quonset is about 30 feet long with 48 wheels under it. The wheels are on hydraulic jacks that can raise or lower them about two feet. They can also adjust for bumps or changes in the ground level.
The two barges are held apart by a pair of steel trusses and braced by steel cables, forming a giant catamaran. They will be docked with their sterns against the pier.
Using steel ramps, the transporters will move the bridge onto the barges crosswise, with its ends overhanging the barges’ sides. In Providence, that arrangement will let the barges pass between the piers while the ends of the bridge pass above the piers. Lowering the bridge will set it in place on the piers.
The barges are the Chesapeake Trader and Atlantic Trader, both 300 feet long and normally used to haul cargo containers. They belong to McAllister Towing and Transportation Co. of New York City.
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