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Bridge Building Buzzing

From historic structures to iconic designs to international crossings, projects span the region

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Texas and Oklahoma are in the midst of building bridges and implementing replacement and rehabilitation programs, many of which are projects fueled by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.

Photo: TxDOT
Williams Bros. Construction Co. is building an interchange at BW8 and U.S. 59 in Harris County.
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Galveston Causeway Bridge The railway bridge in Galveston is one of the more intriguing projects. On the books since 2001 when the U.S. Coast Guard deemed the 1912-era, single-leaf bascule bridge a navigation obstacle to the Intracoastal Waterway, the project is now ramping up, funded by $60 million in stimulus dollars.

The Truman-Hobbs Act of 1940 requires the federal government to share in the cost of upgrading bridges considered a navigational hazard, and barges and boats frequently hit the Galveston Causeway Bridge. Total project cost is $97.6 million, says Steve Millsap, assistant vice president of structures for BNSF Railway Co., Fort Worth, which is responsible for bridge maintenance. BNSF’s bridge tender opens the bridge on average 1,365 times per month.

“On this section on the navigable channel there is tremendous volume,” Millsap says. “It’s primarily commodities—chemicals, petroleum products—and high-risk.”

Cianbro/Brasfield and Gorrie, a joint venture, received the $80-million contract to widen the causeway gap for seagoing traffic from 104 to 300 ft, converting the bascule to a vertical lift. Vertical clearance will be 73 ft. The joint venture partners are Cianbro of Pittsfield, Maine, and Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors of Birmingham, Ala.

The two new vertical lift towers will be supported by 240 H-type steel piles, driven up to 200 ft. The fabricated steel, from Hirschfeld Industries of San Angelo, weighs 3 million lbs. The heaviest parts are the 80-ton shafts, which will be erected atop the 155-ft-tall towers.

G&G Steel of Russellville, Ala., will provide the machinery.

“This is going to change the skyscape,” Millsap says. “It will be visible for miles.”

The new portion of the bridge will consume 11,844 cu yds of concrete, used for the caps, piers and 780-ton counterweights.

The original 1912 bridge cost $1.7 million to build and carried water, electricity, vehicles and trains. Cianbro/Brasfield and Gorrie will shorten the causeway, removing some of the original concrete arches.

The BNSF and Union Pacific railroads continue to use the bridge, with 16 trains crossing per day. That train traffic will continue throughout construction. Highway traffic has moved to Interstate 45, and transmission towers in the water hold the electrical lines.

The bridge still carries Galveston’s only potable water. The project includes rerouting the 1912 and 2000 water lines under the channel. The relocations represent $12 million of the total project cost. The city is chlorinating the 1912 water line, out of service since 2002, so it can serve as a temporary water-supply line while the 2000 line is rerouted.

Boyer of Houston will perform the tunnel and water-line relocations.

“We’re expecting a lot of surprises because it’s so old,” says Mike Fitzgerald, Galveston County engineer.

Millsap anticipates the team will float the new span into place during the fourth quarter of 2011.

El Paso International Bridge El Paso County is moving closer to building its half of an international bridge, linking Tornillo with Guadalupe, Mexico. Robert Rivera, public works director for the county, says the project should go to bid later this year, with a construction start slated for March. “The area needs a new international bridge,” Rivera says. “For economic development, we are building a commercial-type bridge to handle large trucks.”

The county estimates its portion of the bridge construction at $15 million, with Mexico building the other half of the bridge. Permits and international agreements are in place. The county also is constructing a $10-million access road for the new toll facility.

The General Services Administration will build a $92-million Land Port of Entry facility to handle security and immigration at the bridge. Shala Geer-Smith, director of regional public affairs for GSA, says the agency should award a construction contract late this summer, with the two-year construction project to begin in the fall.

The Park Over Woodall Rodgers Archer Western Contractors in Arlington began construction in October on a $45-million concrete box-beam bridge over the Woodall Rogers Freeway, which will create an $80-million, 5.2-acre park with jogging trails, performance pavilion, dog park and other features atop the expressway.

 

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