<h1 class="entry-title headline">Some of you out there may find this project interesting even if you don't travel these waters. This article came from the Daily News in Galveston, Texas. The photos came from an unknown source...maybe the newspaper as well? Enjoy!</h1><h1 class="entry-title headline">*</h1><h1 class="entry-title headline">Bridge span to be moved into place</h1>By Michael A. Smith
The Daily News
<abbr class="published timestamp" title="2012-02-07 00:00:00">Published February 7, 2012</abbr>
GALVESTON In the next few days, a team of more than 100 people will begin moving a 1,580-ton span of railroad bridge from a construction site on Harborside Drive to a spot just northeast of Galvestons causeway, where it will be affixed between two huge, blue towers.
The intricately planned and choreographed operation will be a high point in an $80 million project to replace an old and notoriously narrow rail drawbridge.
The old bridge spanned only 105 feet. That narrow gap was one of the trickiest places to navigate along the entire Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The new bridge system will give mariners on the waterway a slot 300 feet wide through which to pass.
The move could begin as early as Wednesday, or as late as Friday, depending on such variables as the weather, and take the rest of this week and most of next week, Brian Watson, senior project manager with Cianbro Corp., said. Pittsfield, Maine-based Cianbro Corp. built the bridge in a joint venture with Birmingham, Ala.-based Brasfield & Gorrie.
The First Step
The plan for the move and installation fills 600 pages in a three-ring binder. It spells out where every crew on every shift should be and what they should be doing down to about the minute.
The first step in the journey of two or so miles will be getting the massive, looming span off a series of concrete foundations, which were used like sawhorses while it was being built, and onto a barge.
The dimensions involved illustrate what a task that will be. The span is 382 feet long, 27 yards longer than a football field. Its about 50 feet tall, the height of a five-story building, and 22 feet wide.
Crews have knocked out all the foundations except the ones supporting each end of the span, Watson said. Soon, trailers will be rolled under and lift the span, which then will be hauled over a series of ramps to the bay and onto a 300-foot-long, 100-foot-wide barge.
The team then will spend several hours lashing the span to the barge and making the whole rig weighing in by then at about 1,700 tons seaworthy.
When thats done, and wind and other weather factors allow, tugboats will push and pull the barge to a staging point on the Intracoastal Canal.
When the barge with the span gets to that spot in the canal, one of the busiest commercial waterways in the country will be closed, and a clock will start. The team will have 72 hours to get the span installed and in operation or face penalties.
Simple On Paper
Conceptually, the plan is simple. The tugs will push the barge into the gap between the two blue towers. The barge will hold the bridge span about three feet higher than it needs to be to mate up to its moorings on the towers. Pumps will push water into the barge until it settles the three or so feet needed to get the span into the proper spot.
Simple; or it would be, if not for the details. Along with the sheer mass involved and the fact its all riding on water, there are finer details.
For example, the space the span must fit into is only five inches wider than the span itself, giving the crew maneuvering it home only 2.5 inches of space on each end. And thats just one alignment. All four bottom corners of the span have to be aligned with their counterparts on the towers so the railroad tracks align properly.
Its a three-dimensional problem, Watson said. It has to be true and square. It cant be tilted, pitched or yawed.
Crews will do the fine alignment with winches and cables and by filling or venting ballast tanks in specific spots inside the barge.
Its an oversimplification, but the span is a little like a huge plug-and-play module. It will arrive at the bridge site complete with everything it needs to operate railroad tracks and ties, lights, even its final paint job.
When the span is in the right place, crews will set about connecting 64 2.25-inch steel cables that will anchor it to the towers and raise and lower it when the bridge operates.
They also will have to make numerous electrical connections and adjustments and conduct tests on the bridges systems.
The new bridge should be ready to accommodate rail and marine traffic Feb. 17.
The old bridge was built in 1909. It featured two railroad tracks and a roadway for cars. Cars stopped using it in 1935.
In 2001, The U.S. Coast Guard declared the old bridge to be an unreasonable obstruction to navigation and ordered the passage widened to 300 feet.
The Coast Guard is paying 95 percent of the construction cost, while the other 5 percent will be split among Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the city of Galveston, the Port of Galveston and Galveston County.
Construction began June 1, 2010, and the projected completion, including removing the old bridge apparatus, is June 1.
The project directly employed about 150 people, many of them local, at its peak and will have generated about 500,000 man-hours of work when its done, Watson said.