Friday | 15 May, 2009 | 6:14 am

The road less traveled

By Lisa Rummler

May 2009 - The daily commute can be rough. The heavy traffic and honking horns make it easy for tempers to run high. And if the route is peppered with potholes, it can lead to a mean case of road rage.

Residents of Grosse Ile Township, Mich., which consists of 14 islands in the Detroit River, faced an especially grueling drive, crossing a bridge built in the 1930s that hadn't undergone major repairs since the late 1970s and was often closed so crews could put down patch plates.

In June 2006, representatives from the engineering division of the Wayne County Department of Public Services decided to seek a long-term solution.

After learning about the company's riveted grating bridge deck, they approached Ohio Gratings Inc., Canton, Ohio, a manufacturer and distributor of custom bar grating.

Kenneth P. Apperson, PE, director of engineering and product development at Ohio Gratings, says the bridge's age contributed to the engineering challenges associated with its renovation.

"It's a fairly narrow bridge--the lanes are only about 10 feet wide," he says. "Trucks were getting over to the edge, and the wheels would get up against the sidewalk, and you could see the damage to the concrete sidewalk on the edges. Also, the deck itself had a lot of cracks, missing bars and patch plates."

Getting down to business
The fast-track project got under way in mid-April 2007 and was completed in December 2007. In the course of the project, Ohio Gratings worked with the Wayne County representatives and the general contractor, Walter Toebe Construction Co., Wixom, Mich., on several aspects of the project.

"It was a collaborative effort, back and forth, with what they wanted versus what we could offer, and we have a lot of different options," says Apperson. "They were basically the engineering group, and we were recommending what we [had] from a product standpoint."

For the renovation of the bridge deck, Ohio Gratings provided more than 26,000 square feet of serrated, heavy-duty, riveted galvanized steel grating.

The grating has 5-inch-by-0.375-inch bearing bars and serrated connecting bars, as well as a high strength-to-weight ratio. Additionally, there are no welds on the surface, which minimizes the risk for fatigue cracks, according to Apperson.

"We helped them size the steel riveted bridge deck based on the loading that they have," he says. "It was designed to carry an AASHTO H-20 and H-25 load rating, which are 18-wheelers."

Ohio Gratings also worked on the sidewalk of the bridge, swapping out the old concrete sidewalk with a lightweight, aluminum one that was compliant with ADA standards and helped offset some of the weight for the bridge deck, according to Apperson.

Additionally, Ohio Gratings helped with the inspection walkway underneath the bridge, which is also made of aluminum and is especially lightweight.

"It was an aluminum Lite I-bar grating," says Apperson. "It only weighed about 2 pounds per square foot. And the sidewalk weighed about 4 pounds per square foot, so it was pretty lightweight, also."

Reaching destination
During the course of the project, Ohio Gratings shipped 22 truckloads of material, and it provided design and engineering support. The result is a visibly and structurally sounder bridge, according to Apperson.

In addition to making commutes smoother for Grosse Ile residents, the bridge garnered the attention of the Downriver Branch of the , which commended the engineering division of the Wayne County Department of Public Services and named the Grosse Ile Bridge rehabilitation the 2008 project of the year.

Apperson says the department more than earned the award and that Ohio Gratings is honored to have played a role in improving the bridge.

"The award belongs to Wayne County because they did the engineering," he says. "We just supplied the grating and worked with them and Walter Toebe Construction. They did a bang-up job on construction of the project. It was a team effort." MM

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