DOT again praised for bridge replacement method first used in Southington in 2014

Record-Journal staff

A bridge construction method the state first used in Southington in 2014 was successfully used again this month to replace two spans of I-95 in Stamford, drawing praise for the Department of Transportation. 

The bridge replacement project near Exit 9 on I-95 in Stamford utilized accelerated bridge construction.

Over two weekends workers demolished the existing spans and slid two fully constructed bridges in their place, avoiding a couple years of traffic delays.

“A project of this magnitude could have resulted in a nightmare on the highway, but everyone involved did an excellent job of communicating to drivers that they should avoid the area, and they were able to complete their work expeditiously,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement last week.

Southington project

The state first used accelerated bridge construction to replace two spans of Interstate 84 over Marion Avenue in Southington in 2014. 

That project went so smoothly over the weekend of July 12-13, 2014 that the highway reopened 10 hours earlier than expected, officials said at the time. 

Both sides of the I-84 were closed at Exit 30 starting Friday as the eastbound and westbound bridges were demolished. Marion Avenue was also blocked off to allow highway traffic to detour around exit ramps and back onto the highway.

"The only way this could have been better is if we had a genie who could grant three wishes, and we could have just wished the bridges were already replaced," DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said of the Southington project at the time. 

Contractor criticism

A key contractor, however, criticized the state for allowing only one weekend for the work to take place and for changing the scheduled date of the replacement to avoid traffic from the Travelers Championship golf tournament.

The operations manager for the crane and heavy lifting company that installed the two bridges said the DOT took a "big risk" in tearing out both bridges on the same weekend.

"I thought it was absolutely ludicrous when it was first suggested," Jon Irwin, operations manager for Marino Crane of Middletown, said at the time. "It wasn't the best thought process."

Doing the work over one weekend lessened the inconvenience to motorists, Nursick said, and was well within the acceptable "scope of risk."

"We have no second thoughts moving forward," he said, adding that future bridge replacements will likely be completed in a weekend.

Irwin argued that the east and westbound bridges could have been replaced on separate weekends, eliminating the risk of shutting down the entire highway if the project went wrong.

Shawn Clark, project manager for Northern Construction, which won the $6 million bid for the work, agreed with Irwin that replacing both bridges on the same weekend was risky but managed by thorough planning.

"We had backup equipment for backup equipment," Clark said.

In Stamford, construction occurred over two weekends, with traffic detoured off the highway at Exit 9 beginning at 11 p.m. on the Fridays of both weekends and ending hours ahead of schedule on Sunday each weekend. 

The Stamford project was led by O&G Industries, based out of Torrington.



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