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Steel
Monday | 23 March, 2015 | 10:22 am

Building bridges

Written by By Lynn Stanley

With a voracious appetite for wire cable, two new bridges rise above the Ohio River

March 2015 - In a tale of two bridges, residents and commuters surrounding Louisville, Kentucky, are watching massive steel and concrete structures take shape 80 feet above the Ohio River. The work is part of the Ohio River Bridges Project that began construction in 2013 to improve safety, ease congestion, connect highways and spur economic development. 

Work is underway for the first structure in downtown Louisville, upstream from the John F. Kennedy Memorial bridge built in 1963. The second bridge will link the Indiana and Kentucky segments of I-265 between Louisville’s east end and Utica, Indiana. But unlike the central figures in Charles Dickens’ novel, the two bridges are not look-alikes. 

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The Downtown Crossing (pictured above) is a three-tower cable-stayed bridge that will use 1.4 million feet of galvanized steel cable strand. “That’s 266 miles of strand [or] enough to stretch from Louisville to Chicago,” says Andy Barber, Kentucky transportation cabinet project manager. A median-tower cable-stayed center cable bridge design was chosen for the East End Crossing which spans 8 miles from Prospect, Kentucky, through Jeffersonville, Indiana. The project is being erected in three sections. 

More than 650 pieces of structural steel have been sourced for the Downtown Crossing from Little Rock, Arkansas-based Prospect Steel. Trucked to the Port of Indiana, the material was partially assembled before being loaded onto barge to the worksite, where the erection requires 76,000 bolts. “Each floor beam is 98 feet long and weighs 35,000 pounds,” says Barber. “Deck structural steel totals 12 million pounds.”

The Downtown Crossing’s outside tower will measure 230 feet tall with the tower closest to the Indiana shore expected to reach full height later this month. The tower hugging the Kentucky shore will top out this summer along with the center tower which will reach a height of 280 feet. The concrete towers use reinforcing steel grade 75 black bars. A709 grade 70W steel plate anchor boxes cast inside the towers will hold the stay cable anchors.

An engineering feat

Jacobs Engineering in Louisville, the lead design firm for the project, teamed with Chicago’s Walsh Construction to analyze how much total force each stay cable would need to carry, then calculated the number of strands needed to carry dead load (the weight of all items attached to the structure) plus live load (vehicle traffic). Each steel strand, over 0.5-inch in diameter, is comprised of seven grade 270 low-relaxation wires. Coils contain 9,000 feet of continuous strand. The Downtown Crossing will feature 88 stay cables totaling 1.2 million pounds. 

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The East End Crossing (above), designed by International Bridge Technologies, San Diego, with consultation from Jacobs Engineering, Louisville, features steel with specific welding and geometry requirements. Cable-stayed bridges use cables attached to the roadway that run up to a single tower constructed to absorb compressional forces. 

WVB East End Partners is installing on the bridge’s substructure. Tower construction begins later this year. Steel erection will also soon begin with stay cables scheduled for the end of the year. The bridge’s main span across the Ohio River will total 2,500 feet. Tower height is 300 feet with 104 stay cables weighing 1,000 tons. Deck structural steel tips the scales at 6,670 tons.

Teamwork

“Construction of the Downtown Crossing is more than 55 percent complete,” says Barber. “New interstate connections are being built on both sides of the river while work on the bridges continues.” The Downtown bridge totaling 2,114 feet long is expected to carry traffic by January 2016. 

The East End Crossing is also scheduled for completion in 2016.

“The size of this project and the large amount of special grade steel needed required a special rolling from the mill to produce the quantities we need,” Barber notes. “And with so much steel being fracture critical, teamwork and coordination among the designers, fabricators and erectors have been crucial.” MM

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