Two staging barges have been moved into place near the Broadway Bridge on the Arkansas River, marking the beginning of a new phase in the $98 million project to replace the crossing connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The barges, secured for now on the north bank of the river and on the upstream side of the existing bridge, contain large yellow structures called falsework towers that will be used to support the construction of the twin arches that the new bridge will feature. Each arch will eventually require four towers, one for each corner.
The first pieces of steel for the arches will arrive Thursday from Palatka, Fla., on trucks with special permits to carry overweight and oversize loads, Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said Monday.
The trucks will arrive at a separate staging area also on the river's north bank, across from the Clinton Presidential Center and just east of the pedestrian bridge. There, the steel will be offloaded, painted and then loaded onto barges that will be floated upstream to the second staging area, which is between the Broadway and Main Street bridges, according to the department.
It is at the second staging area where workers with Massman Construction Co. of Kansas City, Mo., the project's primary contractor, will assemble the arches before they are hoisted into place.
Once the existing bridge is removed sometime in the spring, the barges will be used to float the completed arches -- each 450 feet long -- into place above new piers and caps. Then the barges will be flooded with water and the arches lowered into place, according to the contractor.
"It will be quite a sight to see," Straessle said.
The oversize and overweight truckloads might be quite a sight, too. The largest among the convoy contains steel members that are 75 feet long and weigh 85,000 pounds, or more than 42 tons, according to the department. They will enter the state on U.S. 82 in Chicot County to complete a journey totaling about 870 miles.
Delivery of the steel will take several months. The double-basket handle arches will weigh an estimated 2,000 tons each once construction is completed, the department said.
The arches are being built by a subcontractor, Veritas Steel LLC of Eau Claire, Wis. Because of the size of the arches and the shortened time frame under which Veritas must complete them, one arch is being built at its facility in Eau Claire and the second at another company facility in Palatka.
Pulaski County committed $20 million to the project to incorporate two basket-handle arches into the design instead of just one as the department had proposed. That money will be paid over several years.
Planning to replace the 92-year-old bridge on U.S. 70, also known as Broadway, began in 2011. All three of its components -- superstructure, substructure and deck -- are rated structurally deficient. While state highway officials insist that it remains safe for traffic for now, they say the bridge has been increasingly costly to maintain, making replacing it a more cost-effective option.
Current construction estimates indicate that the existing bridge will be closed in late spring, according to the department. The new structure will open to traffic six months later. Work on this project began in January 2015 and is estimated to be completed in early 2017.
Until now, Massman crews have been assembling material and equipment, installing offices in four separate prefab buildings placed off Riverfront Drive in North Little Rock near the bridge, drilling the shafts in the river bottom for the 24 piers for the new bridge, building the pedestrian and bicycle ramps that will tie into the new bridge, and other work.
Metro on 12/15/2015
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