Chill won't halt Hulton Bridge work
As winter approaches, road crews typically remove their barrels, blinking arrows and detour signs and close up shop. Not at the Hulton Bridge.
Construction workers there not only will endure all that winter will throw at them, but a few will withstand frigid waters as they dive into the Allegheny River in heated wet suits to work on the bridge piers.
The $65 million project will replace the signature lilac, two-lane bridge, which PennDOT deemed severely deteriorated and — at 105 years old — antiquated.
The new 1,600-foot-long, four-lane Hulton Bridge will be just upstream from the existing bridge.
The replacement span is the first new bridge to be built by PennDOT across a river in Allegheny County in 30 years since the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Pittsburgh, said John Myler, a PennDOT project manager. Begun in September, the project is slated for completion on Oct. 22, 2015, well before the hubbub of traffic for the 2016 U.S. Open Championship at the Oakmont Country Club.
“We tailored the project to make sure that it was done in 2015,” Myler said.
The two-year project includes a monthlong closure in summer 2015 of the existing bridge while the new bridge is connected to roadways in Oakmont and Harmar on the other side.
“What we didn't want to happen is for the 30-day closure to occur in 2016, which could have been a disaster if that happened during the U.S. Open,” he said.
Scuba divers will plunge into the river with specialized equipment and materials.
“It's unique to be putting foundations into the river,” Myler said.
To even begin the project, PennDOT had to survey the river bottom for freshwater mussels. The Allegheny River hosts some that are listed as federally and state endangered.
“They found an extensive amount of mussels in the area that had the Fish and Boat Commission actively involved” along with the Department of Environmental Protection, Myler said.
They documented six species, none of which is endangered.
“The higher volume of mussels was found in the middle of the river, which surprised people,” he said.
The coin-sized shellfish are often found near riverbanks.
The surveys were required as the contractor, Brayman Construction Corp. of Clinton Township, has to drill down 50 feet to 60 feet from the riverbed into bedrock in order to lay the bridge foundations, said Jason Booher, a Brayman project manager.
The contractor is building four river piers and two abutments, one at either end of the bridge.
To build the piers, they will construct temporary “cofferdams,” watertight structures, around the site of the bridge piers to install footers and the pier stems.
“The cold weather makes everything more difficult,” Booher said.
High or turbulent water could cause work to be halted.
In the spring, Brayman will still be working on the piers and finishing up the abutment on the Harmar side. They should be starting work on the abutment on the Oakmont side.
PennDOT and the community collaborated on some of the aesthetics of the span.
“The Oakmont community is sensitive to their streetscapes and their brick roads,” Myler said, referring to the business district along Allegheny River Boulevard a few short blocks away.
“That is one of the things that PennDOT was open to,” he said. “We used to say, ‘Hey, we need to replace a bridge.' Boom — there's a bridge.”
The bridge piers will feature a stone façade made from concrete forms and painted to look like stone.
The agency has met and will continue to meet with students from Riverview School District to talk about the project and make presentations on engineering.
Other than the normal traffic jams at the Hulton Bridge, motorists shouldn't be bothered much with the new bridge construction in 2014.
A few infrequent restrictions will occur at night, but no detours or single-lane traffic restrictions are anticipated, said Jason Booher, project manager for Brayman Construction Corp.
The traffic issues will occur in 2015, the final year of the project, Booher said.
Work on the bridge intersection on Freeport Road on the Harmar side will make for restrictions and some traffic snarls.
But in the long run, the work will pay off for motorists who travel south on Freeport Road to turn left onto the Hulton Bridge. The road will be widened to make way for two turning lanes that will replace the single lane that typically is the cause of traffic backups during rush hour.
The big traffic headache will arrive in the summer of 2015, when the Hulton Bridge will close for 30 days and crews will tie the bridge into roadways.
“There's no getting around it,” said Booher.
Traffic will be re-routed to the Highland Park Bridge and other routes.
Demolition of the old Hulton Bridge is slated for late August 2015.
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or email@example.com.