Everyone has felt the pain of road construction delaying their travel plans and, in those moments, there’s little comfort in an article touting the engineering that made it possible. But, in the video above, we’ve captured construction very few motorists encountered – because a badly damaged bridge was replaced in the middle of the night, and ready for traffic the next day. This successful result was achieved by a coordinated team of construction and engineering companies, among which LaBella is proud to have played a role.
In July 2016, an excavator was being transported from I-190 southbound to I-90 eastbound on a trailer, exceeding posted height limitations for the road. The Exit 53 overpass bridge was struck, and the damage required New York State Thruway Authority crews to immediately shore the overpass bridge and limit traffic.
NYSTA worked quickly with CHA’s engineering team in Buffalo on a plan to remove the damaged portion of the bridge, and replace it with a new section. The new section was prefabricated by the Fort Miller Company in Schuylerville, NY. The plans called for the removal and replacement to be completed in one weekend, to minimize traffic closures on the Thruway below.
Union Concrete and Construction Corporation (UCC) was selected to perform the work, and Contour Steel, Inc, was tapped to lead the removal of the damaged portion of the bridge, and safely erect the replacement section. LaBella Associates engineers worked closely with all companies to create a construction plan that could be executed within the limited timeframe of one night’s disruption. The procedure developed by LaBella included the determination of the weight of pieces to be removed and erected, the positioning of the crane for safe operation, and calculating the rigging required to perform the lifts. LaBella also performed evaluations of the mid-level bridge which would be used to transport the removed, damaged sections (also known as: don’t damage a different bridge while fixing the first one).
LaBella’s plan was put in action on Friday, November 18th at 7:00 pm with the closure of two ramp bridges off the Exit 53 interchange. Once the bridges were closed, UCC crews began to mill the asphalt wearing surface and sawcut the bridge deck. Ironworkers from Contour Steel began to remove the steel railing from the deck, along with strategic sections of the temporary shoring and existing steel framing. At 10:00 pm, the westbound Thruway lanes were closed, and a 600 ton hydraulic crane was mobilized. Four hours are needed to set up the crane, during which time crews completed the surgical separation of the damaged section. At approximately 2:45 am, the damaged section of the bridge, weighing approximately 108 tons, was set upon two heavy haul trailer trucks and driven off the bridge for demolition.
The replacement section, weighing 95 tons, was rigged to be lifted into place. The lift began at 3:15 am and the new section was in its final position by 4:15 am. Work by UCC and Contour Steel continued as hardware was installed to join the new section to the existing bridge. The Thruway was cleared of the crane and opened to traffic by 8:00 am on Saturday morning. Following paving and clean up, the Exit 53 overpass bridge was re-opened at 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 20th.