How Do You Build A Bridge?
How Do You Build A Bridge?
Being an island resident and loving our old swing bridge, my family & I had resisted the entire thought of a new high rise bridge coming to Sunset Beach. Even to the point that our kids would grumble at the site when the new construction started. The familiar “ka-klump” sound as you cross over the nostalgic structure still tugs at my heart strings and carries me home to a sense of peace. Until… “Look at that! How do they do that?” is excitedly yelled from a child breaking the silence & jolting my head back to reality. Somewhere along the construction journey, we all became mesmerized by the overwhelming process. We decided it was time to ask the simple questions.
Dillon Frazier, Project Manager with English Construction Co, Inc. (a century old family owned business from Va.) was gracious enough to answer my simple questions. The daunting task involves over 75 crew members on any given day supervised by Mark Jenkins along with 2 to 3 Project Managers overseeing the project. This die-hard crew works in EVERY weather condition from 7am till 5:30pm along with every other Saturday. We see these guys sun-up to sun-down in some nasty conditions. The round concrete columns you’ve seen in the photos require approx. 85 yards of concrete and run anywhere from 30-100 feet deep in the ground. The newest column being set now, requires approximately 250 yards of concrete and will be oblong shaped. There will be 5 of these made for support of the 130-160 foot span over the water. The crew is required to do much of their work on ground level, which usually means a wait for low tide while working in the water. Dillon explained the time constraint they are under now to have the footings for the columns in place prior to April due to a Moratorium enforced in our waterways. The moratorium does not allow setting the pilings or footings in the water April through September so as to not interfere with wildlife & aquatic breeding season. Basically to “set” a footing, a permanent sleeve is set about 30 feet in the ground. This sleeve is drilled out 30-100 feet deep and a substance called “slurry” is poured in. The slurry fills the void, provides resistance for the sidewalls of the footings and assists in the drilling process. Next, a coated reinforcement bar (Re-bar) is set in place within the sleeve & slurry. Concrete is then poured in forcing the slurry to the top which is then siphoned off. Once the concrete dries, the tall Re-bar for the column is attached to the footing and a form is put around the Re-bar which holds the concrete in place until is dries. It is quite something to see when a crew member is at the very top of these structures. I literally hold my breath! The girders are the pieces that span from one column to another column. A wooden form is then built over the girders where the concrete is poured to form the new road of the bridge. This is process is called “Poured in Place” and provides accurate coverage of the area. According to Dillon, the side rails of the bridge will be about 3 feet high and the maximum height of the bridge will be 80 feet off the water. English Construction crew is on schedule and should complete the process by December, 2010. They have also been contracted to dispose of the stationary portions of our old beloved bridge. The state of North Carolina will take the floating section of the bridge. We are curious about their plans, but we don’t have any answers yet. Hopefully I was able to break this information down for those of you, like myself, who don’t work in the bridge building business.
Even though the regretful progress inches closer to the death of our little one lane bridge, viewing the process to build the new bridge has been quite amazing. We are thankful for Dillon and to all the tireless crew members striving to make our new bridge safe. I hereby pledge not to let my sadness make me bitter to change.