Industry Suppliers Build Safety into Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement

WRE Update: From the May/June 2014 Issue of Wire Rope Exchange
By Jennifer H. McInerney

nnyb_hires-11For travelers and commuters crossing the Hudson River from Tarrytown to South Nyack, New York, the sea of cranes beneath the Tappan Zee Bridge has become a familiar—and ever-expanding—sight.

By the year 2018, the Tappan Zee structure, which opened in 1955, will be replaced by the New NY Bridge, a twin-span bridge that’s projected to last 100 years without major structural maintenance. The design calls for eight traffic lanes, four emergency breakdown lanes, a traffic monitoring system, an additional lane for either a commuter bus or light rail, and a pedestrian/bike path.

The $3.9-billion bridge is being designed and constructed by Tappan Zee Constructors LLC, comprised of four firms: Fluor, American Bridge, Granite, and Traylor Bros. Design firms HDR, Buckland & Taylor, URS, and GZA are also lending expertise to the project, and a team of employees from the New York State Thruway Authority and the State Department of Transportation will be working closely with TZC throughout construction.

The wire rope, lifting, rigging, and crane industry continues to play an integral role in the completion of the new bridge. Numerous companies, including the Bilco Group and Python Rope, among many others, are supplying equipment and support.

IMG_7213During a cold snap in late February, Tony Fastuca, Vice President of ASC Industries/ Python America, High Performance Rope and High Performance Products, and Jason Lemberg, District Manager, Bilco Group, donned hard hats, safety glasses, and protective vests and gloves to take a tour of the new bridge’s progress. Unfortunately, icy conditions and TZC’s strict safety regulations prevented them from boarding a boat out to the crane barges on that particular day, but they were able to catch an up close glimpse of work being done at one of the long docks on the opposite shore.

“It’s an amazing project and an exciting piece of history to be a part of,” says Fastuca.


Crane and Safety Central


nnyb_hires-03Fastuca and Lemberg are regular visitors to the TZC construction site. They work in concert with John Glinski, Safety Manager for Tappan Zee Constructors LLC, to ensure that all of the products and services their companies offer are functioning properly. These visits range from verifying the use of Python High Performance Wire Rope for the cranes to the integrity of the 9-part braided wire rope slings and Yale LOUP synthetic slings. Additionally, they provide on-site socket pours, or can fabricate custom lifting devices as needed for special lifts.

“If anything comes up, John can just call and I can provide answers over the phone or come out to the site to help facilitate solutions,” Fastuca states.

Lemberg notes that Bilco has designed proprietary parts for specific applications to accommodate TZC’s needs for this unique project—which remain confidential.

“They’ve made some good stuff for us and it’s worked out great,” Glinski says.

Fastuca and Lemberg also make regular trips to provide staff training on the safe and correct operation of their equipment. Their efforts align well with TZC’s commitment to proactive safety education and eliminating potential risks before they can arise.

From his Tarrytown office beside the existing Tappan Zee Bridge, Glinski ensures that construction activity on the new structure runs as smoothly as possible. On the walls surrounding his desk, a series of white boards provides a snapshot of the project-in-progress. He points out that 15 cranes, including a Manitowoc 4600 and 4100 Ringer (one of the first to hit the jobsite to use the Python non-rotating ropes), that, as of late February, had already taken up residence throughout the construction zone. Another 10 are due to arrive shortly, and, within the year, TZC will ultimately have a total of 30 in the water. Additional cranes of all different sizes will operate from the land, and four tower cranes will be used to construct the main structure.

Among the most anticipated is the Left Coast Lifter, one of the largest floating cranes in the world: a 2,200-ton super-lift crane. Following its 6,000-mile waterway journey from San Francisco Bay to New York Harbor, the Left Coast Lifter was nicknamed I Lift NY. (Please see sidebar.)

Each and every crane undergoes an initial inspection with load tests by a third-party inspector, Atlantic Crane. Once the machines are certified, Glinski conducts monthly inspections that are recorded and documented by date. When necessary, he makes recommendations for repairs and sets deadlines for completion.

Glinski is also responsible for TZC’s strict rigging inspections and tracking the extensive inventory of equipment and supplies project-wide.

“We have a RFID reader system where every piece of rigging has a chip on it and is documented in our database. Anything that gets bought from distributors automatically goes right into our computer. We keep track of where it’s located on the job site, when it was last inspected, who has custody of it, what size, and so on. We punch it up on the computer and we can find out anything we want about it.”

For example, Glinski can call up a specific piece of polyester nylon sling, by brand or serial number, and discover the supplier, its dimensions, lifting capabilities, the date it went into service, and inspection schedule, among many other essential facts.

On that particular February day, he noted that more than 3,300 pieces of rigging equipment had already been delivered to the New NY Bridge operation since the program was implemented about a year earlier.

In addition, the reader system is adaptable for use in the field. “Our engineers have the ability to see what rigging is available on the job at what location. So when they do a lift plan—which I have to review also—they can see what size rigging is available, so we don’t have to keep buying more and more rigging.”

Readers are also distributed throughout the site for inspection purposes so that all information is synchronized and updated.

“Doing it this way is a major cost-reduction for a project of this scope,” Glinski adds.

When President Barack Obama visited the Tappan Zee project site in mid-May, he praised the TZC team for keeping the project ahead of schedule—especially because, as he observed, “At times, you can see the river through the cracks in the [bridge] pavement.”

Over the past decade alone, an estimated $750 million has been spent on maintenance of the ailing Tappan Zee Bridge.


Sidebar – Super Crane Sent Over for Supersized Project

22IMG_5556_HarborThis past Christmas season, the U.S. Coast Guard sent an oversized package from San Francisco on an enormous barge down the southern coast of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, onward through the Caribbean Islands and the Gulf of Mexico, around the southern coast of Florida, and up the East Coast to its final destination in New York Harbor. Registered by the Coast Guard as the Left Coast Lifter, one of the largest floating cranes in the world, officials in Albany have nicknamed the colossal machine I Lift NY. It’s now owned by Tappan Zee Constructors LLC.

The 6,000-mile journey was no easy passage for the 400-foot-long crane. Both the crane and its vessel had to be modified for open-ocean travel. The barge had to be fitted with special wave guards to protect its precious cargo from damage, and a specially designed “cradle” had to be welded onto the bow of the barge to carry the crane’s 300-foot boom. To fit through the Panama Canal, the large pontoons that stabilize the crane for lifting multi-ton loads had to be removed.

According to a statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “The I Lift NY super crane can lift the equivalent of 12 Statues of Liberty at once, and its ability to lift huge modular components of the new bridge into place and to help dismantle the old bridge will reduce construction time by months and reduce project costs by millions of dollars.”

Upon its arrival in New York, the super crane was whisked away to a private facility down-river in Jersey City so that crews could make preparations and adjustments before putting I Lift NY into service on the New NY Bridge. It’s expected to arrive at the construction site in June.

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