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Contractor Builds New Bridge in Traffic-Congested Brooklyn in Record Time, with Minimal Disruption

Carpenter Technology Corporation : 13 April, 2005  (Company News)
Just about everyone connected with the new Belt Parkway Bridge over Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn triumphed when the general contractor, Granite Halmar Construction Company, Inc., startled the construction world by completing the bridge in 261 days
The Mt. Vernon, N.Y.-based subsidiary of Granite Construction Inc., started the replacement bridge March 1, 2004, and finished it in December in one abbreviated construction season. A job of this magnitude, using conventional cast-in-place technology, typically would take 2½ years to finish, estimated Chris Sklavounakis, Director of Design Build and Emergency Contracts for the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), the bridge owner.

Major beneficiaries of the fast build include (1) NYCDOT, which got a new bridge that is under budget, designed to last 100 years and finished more than four weeks ahead of time; (2) the contractor, who collected the maximum $2 million bonus for obliterating the already ambitious deadline it set for itself; (3) the Brooklyn borough council and taxpayers, for getting good value for their tax dollars; (4) millions of motorists, who drove through the construction area in this congested part of Brooklyn with no serious traffic delays; and (5) residents near the job site, who enjoyed a normal lifestyle without any major inconvenience.

Although fast construction is not always synonymous with quality construction, it was true for this $55 million bridge project. The bridge, which alone cost $17 million, has been built with such durability that it is expected to require no more than routine inspection during its lifetime. That prospect alone suggests huge, long-term cost savings for bridge repairs, no longer necessary, as the structure endures extra-heavy, continuous traffic.

Russ Pratt, Granite Halmar Project Manager, attributed the unusually short construction cycle to several factors. One was the active participation of all involved parties — owner/managers, engineers, design engineers, subcontractors and vendors — in biweekly planning meetings. These meetings started with the initiation of design phases more than two years ago.

“We had a great, creative team that was totally committed to the job,” Pratt exclaimed. “Everyone was on the same page, alert to changing circumstances and quick to adjust to keep the project on track. That’s something you can’t take for granted in a build program as challenging as this one.”

“Sklavounakis agreed, describing the teamwork as both “amazing and unique,” making the project “the best one I have ever done.”

Pratt achieved both high quality and fast construction by utilizing innovative precast concrete technology employed by The Fort Miller Co., Inc. This company produced 51 precast, prestressed composite concrete and steel superstructure bridge units (formerly referred to as Inverset™) at its Schuylerville, N.Y., plant 200 miles north of the bridge site. The units were pre-assembled and stored at the plant until needed for installation at the job site. Manufacturing and pre-assembling the bridge components remote from the bridge site, in a controlled environment, minimized the negative aspects associated with conventional bridge construction. This method of construction substantially decreased the project duration, cut traffic in and out of the project site by half, reduced the chances for accidents and eliminated dust, dirt and noise that the surrounding community otherwise would have had to endure.

To assure long-term durability and resistance to the corrosive attack of the area’s marine environment and road salt, Fort Miller followed NYCDOT’s mandate to reinforce its bridge units and parapet barriers with solid stainless steel rebar. The rebar Fort Miller chose was from Talley Metals Technology, Inc., Hartsville, S.C. Talley, a subsidiary of specialty alloys producer Carpenter Technology Corp., Reading, Pa., supplied approximately 400,000 lbs. of a duplex stainless steel known as Alloy 2205 in No. 5 and No. 7 diameter sizes and 40-ft. lengths. This alloy has excellent resistance to general rust corrosion, and good resistance to pitting and crevice corrosion, which can occur in 18-8 type stainless steels. The Talley stainless, key to low life-cycle cost, was used to reinforce the precast concrete bridge decks, bridge parapet, the fascia barrier and median barrier.

Contributing to both fast construction and long life expectancy were special design features including: low headroom mini piles that were suitable for the type of soil encountered and which allowed for construction of piers and pier foundations ahead of schedule; a temporary bridge which allowed for two-phase construction and maintenance of six lanes of traffic throughout the build cycle; special design which eliminated expansion joints from the entire bridge; and use of the T-Wall® retaining wall system independent of the abutment cap beam. The extensive use of precast concrete items contributed significantly to the success of the project.

Both Granite Halmar and NYCDOT received a seldom-bestowed award from Brooklyn Councilman Recchia in appreciation for a job well done. The award reflected the prevailing goodwill of the community surrounding the job site. Nearby Coney Island Hospital and Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, commended the contractor for providing a safe and pleasant environment throughout the construction cycle. This praise was the result of Pratt’s personal attention to NYCDOT’s request to accommodate both the hospital and the high school. Pratt communicated with both entities and planned Granite Halmar’s activities so it could work without causing them any inconvenience.

While the new Belt Parkway Bridge was open to both east-bound and west-bound traffic as early as September 6, 2004, Granite Halmar completed all work affecting roadways on November 20, 2004, which was 29 days ahead of schedule. The project reached substantial completion on December 3, 2004.

Since then, the contractor has worked on other punch-list items involving reconfiguration of seven entrance and six exit ramps, new pavement on the Belt Parkway, rehabilitation of Ocean Parkway, new lighting, drainage, traffic control and safety improvements. All work was completed and accepted on February 16, 2005.
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