Equipment Type

Link-Belt 218 HYLAB5 Crane Handles Challenge of Augusta GA Bridge

At first glance the new bridge project near Augusta, Ga., with the new 100-ton capacity Link-Belt 218 HYLAB5 working on the abutment, doesn't appear to be much different than what you'd expect to see during construction of any other typical two-lane structure over a mainline railroad. It is a familiar sight on many bridge projects across America.

May 07, 2007

At first glance the new bridge project near Augusta, Ga., with the new 100-ton capacity Link-Belt 218 HYLAB5 working on the abutment, doesn't appear to be much different than what you'd expect to see during construction of any other typical two-lane structure over a mainline railroad. It is a familiar sight on many bridge projects across America.

But, as is often the case, looks can be deceiving. This is a bridge job posing several challenges, including the presence of an active rail line and the less obvious but equally important presence of critical underground utilities.

The bridge contractor on the project is Gregory Bridge Company, based in Eatonton, Ga., and such challenges are just part of the job.

"We are bridge builders," says Gregory. "That's what we do, and we feel that we are very good at it. There is a history of three Gregory family generations involved in the company management. My father and I started J.T. Gregory & Son in 1967. In 1984 I founded another firm. The name was changed to Gregory Bridge Company."

Today the company works primarily within 90 to 100 miles of its Eatonton headquarters. This includes Augusta, but the firm stays out of the Atlanta area.

He adds that his own son Jay has also joined the company.

"In addition to assisting me as vice president of operations, he is also running one of our four field crews,"Gregory says.

Construction inspector Jeff Slack, with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), noted that the new bridge over the railroad being built near Augusta posed a few challenges unique to building this particular structure's foundation.

Gregory Bridge Company's new Link-Belt crawler crane used on the project was outfitted with a 100-foot straight boom and a set of 55-foot swinging leads. It was working with its boom at a 60- to 70-degree angle at a 35-foot radius. In the leads was a Delmag D-19-32 diesel pile impact hammer, with a 4190 pound ram weight and a maximum energy of 42,800 pounds.

The twin end bents of the 200-foot-long precast concrete beam structure each require six 80-foot-long H-piles. It was, however, the two center piers for the bridge that were different. Instead of H-piles, they rest on 60-inch-diameter reinforced concrete filled drilled shaft caissons.

The reason for this departure from the more common use of driven H-piles is hidden from view. Buried underground are two critical and highly sensitive MCI fiber optics communications cables that must be protected from damage at all costs.

The new Parham Road Bridge is 30 feet wide by 200 feet long. When finished it will have a poured-in-place concrete deck resting on a series of precast concrete beams. The three-span structure utilizes a dozen prestressed Type 3 beams placed four to a span. The beams are 62 feet, 79 feet and 59 feet in length, all being 48 inches high. Their weights range from 30,300 pounds to 46,100 pounds.

The 218 HYLAB5 will first set the mid-length beams from the abutment level. A second Gregory Link-Belt machine, an LS218 Series II crane, will be positioned on the opposite abutment of the bridge to place the shorter, lighter beams from that location.

The large middle span beams (at 23 tons apiece) will be positioned last by Gregory's 218 Hylab5 crane, with the crane working beside the rails on the track level. The crane will be moved 30 feet to 40 feet away for safety and all work will be halted prior to the scheduled freight trains passing through the job.

The bridge is part of the rehabilitation and realignment of the old twisting dirt road that has served as a local shortcut between two major roads. The relocated road will be asphalt paved and will eliminate a dangerous, unprotected railroad crossing while also cutting off about four miles of unnecessary and often hazardous travel.

Gregory Bridge has used its Link-Belt 218 HYLAB5 on a number of projects.

"The first job we put it on was in Augusta on the Bobby Jones Expressway Extension," said Jerry Gregory, the company's founder and president. "We teamed it there with our older LS-218 to set some long, heavy prestressed concrete beams over the four-lane highway. The beams were BT-74s. They were 150 feet long and 74 inches tall. And we have kept it busy ever since. We drive piling, pour concrete, set beams, and a host of other jobs with it."

Jerry Gregory and Fred Bettress, his local Link-Belt dealer representative, were college colleagues at Georgia Tech and have remained good friends and business associates since then.

Wendell Webb, the operator of Gregory Bridge Company's new Link-Belt 218 HYLAB5, finds today's cranes to offer ease of operation and enhanced safety. Roomier cabs and better control placement make operation less tense than in the past, and enhanced visibility allows a better view of the work area.

"All these factors permit me to work more safely and go home at the end of the day with less fatigue and stress," he continues, adding, "That's an improved safety factor for both me and the other men on the job."

Gregory Bridge presently owns one 218 HYLAB5, one LS-218, three LS-138s (two of which are series II), one LS-118, two LS-108s, and one LS-98 lattice-boom crane. They have two Link-Belt hydraulic cranes; one 30-ton rough-terrain crane and one 60-ton hydraulic truck crane. They also own two new 210 Link Belt (LBX) hydraulic excavators, one 2700 and three 2800s.

According to Gregory, the decision to utilize a single brand has been a good one.

"The parts commonality and interchangeability promote ease of service and maintenance by our mechanics," he says. "This is important because we do almost all our own repairs. Standardization has been easier on our men and less expensive when it comes to preventative maintenance."

He adds, "When I started in this construction business my first bridge cranes had a 29-ton to 40-ton capacity. Back then we were only driving small concrete or H-pile pouring concrete caps and erecting structural steel. That was the state of the art. Weight wasn't a big factor at that time."

But today's projects, he continues, "require us to use larger cranes with far greater lifting capacity." For a while, the company would rent large cranes for a day or two as needed. "But eventually it became imperative that we purchase the larger machines so that we didn't have to depend on an outside source for cranes," Gregory says. "There were those times that the cranes we needed to rent weren't available to rent when we needed them. That held up our men and delayed our completion schedule. We can now schedule our jobs on what we want to do, when we want to do it and be reasonably certain that it will be done."

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