Central Rent-a-Crane’s 500-ton Manitowoc 2250 crane
a Maxer 2000 boom attachment was used for this weekend’s bridge replacement
over the South Shore railroad tracks in Miller. The old 1908 bridge (far
left) was removed Friday and placed beside the new 270-ton bridge, here
ready to be lifted Saturday afternoon onto the existing retrofitted bridge
abutments (far right).
Gateway Erectors ironworkers manning ropes at each
corner guided the new 153-foot long South Shore bridge into place as a crane
slowly swung the bridge into position, then lifted it onto its new location
(right). As the crane rotated and moved on its track platform, a wheeled
counterweight attachment (left) also moved. When the South Shore replaced a
bridge over Bethlehem Steel's main gate last year, that bridge was erected
on a temporary structure and rolled, not lifted, into place. (Tribune photo)
By PAULENE POPARAD
Operating engineer Mike Typpi of LaPorte said it didn’t feel like he had
anything at the end of his 140-foot crane boom, let alone a rusted
Typpi lowered the 1908 South Shore bridge down to the ground in 15 minutes
Friday, and it took barely twice that long Saturday for him to put a new
270-ton bridge in its place.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which owns and
operates the South Shore, is two for two when it comes to successful
rapid-insertion bridge replacements in November. Last year, NICTD replaced
the bridge at Bethlehem Steel’s Burns Harbor main entrance over one weekend;
this year it did the same in Gary’s Miller neighborhood between Hobart Road
and Lake Street parallel to U.S. 12.
NICTD Chairman David Niezgodski of South Bend missed the Bethlehem bridge
changeout, so he made sure to witness the Miller lift. “I think it’s pretty
awesome. It’s very, very impressive,” he said.
Months of planning by engineers at URS Corp. were required for the $1.5
million project which, unlike Bethlehem, was adjacent to private homes and
bisected by one of CSX freight line’s busiest segments in the Midwest.
General contractor Walsh Construction began work at the site in September
and hired Central Rent-a-Crane Inc. to remove and replace the bridges.
According to Jim Peiguss of Praxair, the 500-ton crane Central brought in
had to be erected on a special support system to distribute its weight
because it was sitting over Praxair’s oxygen and nitrogen pipelines that
supply area steel mills.
Walsh also hired Gateway Erectors to secure and supervise the bridge lifts.
Ironworkers spent several hours before each one rigging cables between the
bridge and the crane’s load block hook, which was suspended by 20 parts of
continuous steel cable just over one-inch in diameter.
Because of the additional weight of the blocking and rigging, the Manitowoc
2250 crane was set up to lift 800,000 pounds.
The crane is computerized, but after 40 years operating heavy equipment,
Typpi said, “Computers are an aid assisting you, but it doesn’t get the load
up or down. It tells you capacities. You’re still the one who’s got to make
the decisions.” Typpi’s wife was among dozens of spectators who brought
digital cameras and video recorders to document the event.
Once CSX railroad officials on site stopped train traffic and gave the
all-clear, Gateway signaled Typpi to ease the new $660,000 bridge off the
ground with only feet to spare as he swung it around and away from the
grounded 1908 bridge. With ironworkers on ropes steadying it in a 15 mph
wind, Typpi walked the American flag-decorated bridge closer to the
abutment, then lifted it into place.
NICTD Chief Operating Officer Jeff Lowe said South Shore track forces stood
ready to install new train rail, overhead signals and the electrical
catenary system that powers the commuter trains; service was suspended east
of Miller at 3 a.m. Friday requiring those passengers to be bused.
NICTD Marketing Director John Parsons said today the track was reopened at 5
p.m. Sunday for normal operations. “We literally had most of our fleet in
Gary and we had to get it open early so we could get the cars back and
cleaned well in advance of this morning’s rush hour.”
NICTD hopes to replace the Penn Wabash bridge in Gary next year, and the EJ&E
bridge in East Chicago in 2003. Miller was the third of five bridges being
replaced at a cost of $15 million as part of NICTD’s $166 million South