Dawn Arrives With New Amtrak Bridge

A milestone in the Amtrak Bridge project at Route 1 was reached over the weekend.

Two large steel beams—120 feet long, 7 feet high, each weighing 125,000 pounds and made of single piece of steel—were lowered onto their supports over Route 1 Sunday morning as a major structural milestone in the construction of a new and higher bridge.  Traffic was detoured from Saturday night to Sunday morning to accommodate the process. Meanwhile, the trains kept rolling through on the old track behind the new one. (see video.)

Mary Johnson PhotoA small but convivial group of people gathered late Saturday night to watch the unusual event. It was a chilly evening punctuated by occasional murmurs about the need for coffee.

Mary Johnson PhotoRoute 1 at Short Beach Road was closed around 9 p.m. and 90 minutes later a huge Demag AC 300-ton crane from Marino Crane of Middletown, was in place on the west side of the bridge. Lined up on the street was the truck and its two-part trailer holding one of the steel girders, which had been sitting in the nearby parking lot since the end of the week.

Mary Johnson PhotoJames Linkus, the driver of the rig that had transported the beams from the manufacturer, Hershfield, of Abington, Va., said he had an escort of nine vehicles, including the state police. “More than the Secret Service!” he quipped. He and his partner, Keith Baker, told entertaining stories about their long-haul adventures while the lift was being prepared.

Mary Johnson PhotoIt took workers in a cherry-picker a while to properly align the grappling hooks and and straps. It was a meticulous process; you can only imagine how disastrous it would be if the beam slipped in mid lift.

Mary Johnson PhotoOne observer mused, “This is slightly faster than lawn growing.”

Mary Johnson PhotoBut once everything was secure, the lift proceeded smoothly and seamlessly. The beam was lifted off the truck bed and slowly and gently swung about 90 degrees to line up with the bridge. Workers hovered along the old bridge, waiting to secure the new beam.

Mary Johnson PhotoTraffic may have been stopped along Route 1, but not the trains: One sped through in the middle of the process!

A Long Process

The construction work surrounding the Amtrak bridge replacement has become a fact of life for those traveling along Route 1 since the project began a little over three years ago. It is funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and has provided jobs for many workers. 

Heading into town, cars jockey into a single lane while a police officer keeps a watchful eye on traffic; he’s ready to stop things long enough for a backhoe or truck to cross the lanes from one side of the site to the other.

Drivers stopped at the traffic light at Route 1 and Short Beach Road can’t miss the crane that usually has some large structural object dangling off the end of it.

In addition to the bridge work, the Regional Water Authority is installing a 16-inch water main on the north side of Route 1. And the widening of Route 1 up to Orchard Hill Road was undertaken early last spring ahead of schedule and completed before mid-summer. Click here to read about that.

There’s good news on the horizon for local bridge watchers.

Jan Pacansky, project consulting engineer for the Department of Transportation/Amtrak bridge replacement, said that the underpass should be back to two lanes in a year and the balance of the project should be done by then, depending on the winter’s weather. “I’m being optimistic,” he says. It may also delay the shifting of the tracks.

Pacansky says the project’s total cost is expected to be about $49 million. It’s running about $4 million over budget from the original $44.7 million estimate, which is “not critical.”

Mary Johnson PhotoIt was around midnight when the first beam was finally in place. James Linkus hopped into the cab of his truck, while workers prepared the trailer to transport the second beam.

Mary Johnson PhotoHere’s another view.

Mary Johnson PhotoMeanwhile, here’s the view from under the bridge. 

Mary Johnson PhotoThe night wasn’t over yet.  Workers finished one side and then prepared for the other.

The second beam was in place by 3 a.m. and Route 1 was reopened by 6:30 a.m.

Mary Johnson PhotoPacansky promised last week, “It will be quite a show.”

Indeed it was.


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posted by: MegMcG on October 9, 2012  8:51am

These are some excellent photographs!  Really well done with it being nighttime and with floodlights.  The pictures really convey the scope of the work. 
When this bridge is done Branford is going to rapidly develop.  I expect in 10-15 years the scope of Route 1 will be very much like Milford.  Luckily the Land Trust has ensured there’s plenty of open space to enjoy as our commercial development will increase exponentially once trucks are able to easily navigate under that bridge.