Dramatic work is taking place over the Indian River Inlet this week.
Not only is the new $150 million bridge undergoing inspection, the old bridge is starting to come apart bit by huge bit in a process reminiscent of a huge tug of war. The first of four sections was pulled to land two weeks ago by two bulldozers and two excavators.
The old steel bridge, opened in 1965 and located just east of the new bridge, has been cut in half and cut into four sections. Each of the massive 450-foot, 400-ton sections will eventually be pulled to land by heavy equipment. There the beams will be cut into scrap and recycled by contractor George and Lynch, the Delaware Department of Transportation contractor selected for the project.
On April 10, a crew attempted to pull the second section to the north side of the jetty, but ran into problems when the bridge became buried in sand. During the first pull at 8 a.m., the crew was able to move the bridge about 50 feet, but after repositioning equipment and rollers, they ran into problems during the second pull.
Two more excavators were called in to assist with the pull, and by the end of the day all six pieces of equipment were able to eventually pull about 350 feet of the bridge to land.
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the beach was left with soft sand in the area where the work was taking place.
Devising a way to dismantle the bridge was a matter of exploring options. Because of boat traffic in the inlet, the contractor and state officials determined that taking the bridge apart and lowering it to barges was not a good idea. It was also determined that using a crane or helicopter to lift pieces of the bridge were not viable options. It was subcontractor Cherry Creek Recycling of Parker, Colo., that came up with the eventual solution of cutting apart the bridge and pulling it over heavy-duty rollers to land.
Marx Possible, DelDOT engineer, said the pulling process is not commonly used to remove heavy steel girders, but it can work.
Allowing the contractor to gain the proceeds for the scrap steel was determined as the best way to cut costs in the bridge contract, said Jim Westhoff, DelDOT spokesman. Scrap steel is selling for $250 to $300 a ton. An $11 million contract covers the cost of demolition as well as construction of the road approaches.
Westhoff said work on the other side of the inlet would probably start in about two weeks.
Bridge demolition is expected to be completed before the Memorial Day weekend, Possible said.
Bridge inspection taking place also
This week, a small team of inspectors is at the bridge. The inspection includes a high-wire act of dangling on ropes to inspect the two 249-foot towers. Access to the towers is gained by climbing a series of ladders to each the top.
The first inspection of the bridge was performed last year in April, said DelDOT spokesman Geoff Sundstrom. The current inspection work being done by TranSystems is limited to a close-up visual inspection of the cable-stay anchorages in the pylon and along the deck.