Duncan Ave. project in Hampton gets lift from crane

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Using hand signals and a 300-ton crane, crews recently pieced together the spine of a new bridge for Duncan Avenue motorists.

“Amazing,” Duncan Avenue resident Vern Miller said last week as the crane's operator slowly lowered a section of the bridge — suspended from steel cables — onto a pair of concrete tracks in a canyon beside the Easy Trip gas station on Route 8.

“I thought it never would get done,” said Miller, watching the new bridge take shape.

“This is something everybody should see,” Miller said. “You're watching history.”

Semiretired chemical engineer Tony Wierzbowski of the Devlin's Point apartment complex also marveled at the crane in action.

In the span of two days, the crane installed an approximately 80-foot culvert with 21 sections of precast concrete.

“For an old guy like me, it's interesting,” Wierzbowski, 69, said as the crane lifted a 55,000-pound section of concrete into midair. “If there's a crane, we flock to it,”

Civil engineer Andy Banfield of the PVE Sheffler engineering firm in Franklin Park described the crane operator's skill as “unparalleled.”

“Crane operators are very important,” said Banfield, manager of the Duncan Avenue bridge-replacement project.

Gary Metzinger, general contractor for the project, said it cost about $20,000 to rent the crane and hire its operator — Rich Lawson of Perryopolis, Fayette County — through ALL Crane Rental of West Elizabeth.

Last week, an estimated two dozen people showed up during a three-day period to watch Lawson operate the towering crane at Duncan Avenue and Route 8.

Crane operators such as Lawson earn about $34 per hour, according Jason Wellington, operations manager at ALL Crane Rental of Pennsylvania, a division of ALL Erection Corp. of Cleveland.

“There's a lot of responsibility,” Wellington said. “You're dealing with large equipment. In a heartbeat, something easily could go wrong.”

After the crane departed, Metzinger's crew began the final task of filling in the 16-feet deep gully surrounding the new culvert.

During heavy rains earlier this year, project manager Banfield noticed less flood-like conditions downstream as a result of the wide canyon created for the new culvert.

“We really achieved something here,” Banfield said.

In addition to reducing floods, the new culvert will form the replacement bridge for an unsafe, 95-year-old span that crews removed months ago.

“It's going to be a safer bridge,” Banfield said.

To drivers, the new bridge will appear as a short stretch of new road at the east end of Duncan Avenue, near the gas station.

“We can't wait until it opens, to get business back,” local property owner Ed Graswick said.

Graswick and his wife, Nancy, own the Schoolhouse Salon beside the bridge-replacement project, which closed the intersection of Duncan Avenue and Route 8 in April. “We lost money,” he said.

Last week, Metzinger said it probably will take another four to six weeks to complete the project.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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