CCA Civil – Gerritsen Inlet Bridge, Pulaski Skyway, Wittpenn Bridge

A wholly owned subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited, China Construction America (CCA) is celebrating 30 years of experience in the American construction and real estate markets. With 2014 revenues of $2.0 billion and 4,200 employees, CCA’s construction services include program management, construction management, general contracting, design/build, heavy construction and real estate development. 

The company has worked on many commercial, industrial, institutional, governmental and infrastructure projects. Headquartered in Jersey City, N.J., CCA’s family of companies in the Americas includes CCA Civil, CCA South America, CCA Panama Corporation, Plaza Construction Company and Strategic Capital. CCA Civil is involved in a number of major projects, several of them focused on infrastructure improvements in New York and New Jersey.

Gerritsen Inlet Bridge 

Currently, CCA is working with the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and URS for the construction of the Gerritsen Inlet Bridge (GIB), one of the four major bridges that span over water inlets on the Belt Parkway system in Brooklyn. Built in 1940, the existing GIB is 518 feet long and 105 feet wide. Its superstructure comprises three long spans supported by steel girders over the water and six short spans supported by concrete beams over land. 

The substructure of the bridge consists of concrete piers in the water and a series of walls and arches over land. All substructure members were built on piles. GIB carries three lanes of traffic in each direction with narrow sidewalks on each side. It has a 35-foot clearance over the navigable waterway and is located on parklands and nearby sensitive wetlands.

At a cost of $104 million, the project will be constructed in five major stages. It began in February 2013 and is expected to wrap up in September 2017. Each stage has a very elaborate maintenance and protection of traffic scheme to accommodate the daily traffic volume of more than 70,000 vehicles. The contract requires clearing more than 14 acres of wooded lands and the complete demolition of the existing superstructure and substructure down to foundation and pile levels to make way for the new bridge.

The reconstruction will consist of building a new 492-foot-long by 121-foot-wide three-span superstructure, along with new piers and abutments on piles, new approach roadways, drainage systems, street and navigation lighting, bicycle path and other safety improvements. CCA will self-perform most of the work, and will be assisted by more than 15 specialty subcontractors in marine, electrical, pile driving and other disciplines.

The location of the bridge presents some challenges because it is located in highly environmentally sensitive areas, such as parks and wetlands. Additionally, there are two marinas and a golf course nearby that are directly impacted by the construction activities. To make room for the new bridge, the wooded land needed to be cleared and more than 500 trees were cut. To minimize impacts, CCA carefully studied the ingress and egress of the construction site to minimize cutting trees to the absolute minimum. In addition, special protection mats were utilized to protect tree roots whenever possible in lieu of total removal.

Since the bridge is on a parkway, no commercial vehicles or trucks weighing more than five tons are permitted on the roadway. In addition, the bridge’s 35-foot vertical clearance over water made it difficult to bring construction materials and equipment by water. The bridge is located in mostly residential neighborhoods, far away from all major suppliers. Each major material and equipment delivery must be carefully studied and planned before they can be brought in.

“To overcome this unique challenge, CCA embarked on identifying and partnering with local businesses and suppliers whenever it was practical,” Project Executive Vicken Bedian says. “This arrangement required additional effort on CCA’s part to ensure these partners would be acceptable to the strict job specification. The efforts involved educating the potential vendors on the job specifications, helping them to procure the right material and upgrading their facilities to meet the contract’s needs. For all other material that was not available in the vicinity of the project, CCA worked closely with the major fabricators and vendors to ensure their delivery methods, trucking routes and permits are in place well in advance to avoid disruption to the project’s needs.”

As for the bridge itself, its existing structure is in a dilapidated state. More than $1.5 million of temporary emergency repairs have been performed to keep it operational until the new bridge is completed.

Furthermore, the site’s conditions were not ideal for driving sheet piling to separate the new roadway from the existing roadway with up to a 13-foot grade differential. CCA’s management was concerned about vibrations caused by driving steel sheets that are 40 to 50 feet long and literally one foot away from live traffic. CCA’s project team improvised and replaced the sheet piling with a mechanically stabilized earth system that requires no intrusive digging into the ground. This proved fortuitous, as a previously unknown drainage structure was discovered that would have obstructed the sheet piles from being driven.

During the marine steel pile driving operation, it became apparent that the existing soil under the seabed did not have enough resistance to achieve the pile’s required bearing capacities for the specified pile lengths. CCA and its marine subcontractor, J.T. Cleary, actively participated and collaborated with the project designer and owner to overcome this unanticipated field condition by providing technical and practical solutions. New sections of piles were ordered, spliced and driven to additional lengths to achieve the original design resistance. This resulted in the piles being driven down to 145 feet instead of the originally anticipated 105 feet. 

 The project involves many stakeholders. It is administered by NYCDOT, but the bridge’s site and vicinity are owned by multiple state and federal entities with some land leased to private parties. More than 20 separate entities have full or partial jurisdictional rights or a stake in the administration of this contract. Extensive coordination and early communication with all the stakeholders are critical to keep the project from being tangled in an administrative limbo. Each major work activity is presented to the stakeholders and permits secured well in advance to give each party adequate time to respond to avoid unnecessary delays.

“Good communication is paramount to any successful project,” Bedian says. “In the course of the last two years, CCA interacted with more than 20 distinct entities that have jurisdiction or say on this project. CCA made extra efforts in identifying and communicating early on with all the key players so they are aware of what is coming.”

Pulaski Skyway

CCA is also working with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) on the reconstruction of the Pulaski Skyway Bridge, which has been open since 1932. Parsons Brinckerhoff is serving as the lead design firm for the NJDOT; they are teamed with Hardesty & Hanover and AECOM as subconsultants. The Pulaski Skyway carries approximately 67,000 vehicles each day between Newark and Jersey City. The past 80 years of service have resulted in deterioration to the skyway, which triggered the NJDOT’s $1 billion rehabilitation project and which included closing the northbound lanes for two years beginning in April 2014. The project is scheduled for completion by 2020.

CCA has been heavily involved with the improvement made to the Pulaski Skyway. The company has been awarded two contracts totaling $335 million to reconstruct the 3.5 miles of bridge deck and supporting steel. Two of four lanes of the bridge will be shut down for the duration of the project to facilitate the demolition and reconstruction of the bridge deck, and structural steel repairs. The scope of work includes demolition and replacement of more than 1 million square feet of bridge deck, encompassing both northbound and southbound lanes between the west abutment in Newark and the east abutment in Jersey City. Additionally, for the safety of the public and the construction workforce, CCA has installed more than 1 million square feet of protective shielding underneath the bridge deck.

The demolition of the bridge deck and structural steel members require CCA to remove and dispose of concrete, structural steel members and steel reinforcing bars. All of the materials removed from the Pulaski Skyway are delivered to recycling facilities. 

The reconstruction consists of the installation of structural steel stringers, fascia girders full and half cross girders, as well as precast and exodermic bridge deck panels that will be unified and mechanically connected to the bridge with the placement of ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC). The bridge deck will be sealed with a one-inch overlay of polyester polymer concrete (PPC). Other aspects of the project include a new roadway lighting system and installation of an architectural aluminum railing.

CCA will self-perform the majority of the work, and will be assisted by a number of specialty subcontractors in areas such as lead abatement, electrical, drainage, asphalt paving, placement of PPC overlay and other related work.

A number of existing conditions have challenged CCA’s methods of construction on the Pulaski Skyway. The bridge is located over commercial properties, a chlorine plant, a landfill, the NJ Turnpike, the NYNJ Port Authority, the PATH Railway and two river crossings. Another challenge to the project is NJDOT does not control the right-of-way beneath or adjacent to the bridge. 

“To minimize CCA’s exposure to the limited crane access from grade, we implemented the use of a gantry crane at the river crossings,” Project Executive Laszlo F. Borhi says. “We maximized the use of a crawler crane on the southbound roadway during full bridge closures on weekends to set upwards of 100-plus precast panels within a 30-hour period. On the northbound roadway, a 500-ton crane with luffing jib is set up at grade, to install precast panels at the spans adjacent to ramps.”

In addition, the nine full-length cross girders could only be installed during weekend full bridge closures, which require completion of demolition, abatement, painting and installation of new full cross girders within a 45-hour window. In the end, 85 percent of the full girders were installed in under 35 hours, with the bridge reopened to traffic by noon on Sunday. Due to the narrow construction corridor, CCA optimized the full bridge closures on weeknights and weekends to perform all tasks that were directly impacted by the reduced access through the construction zone.

“Since the bridge width doesn’t provide adequate clearance between the temporary construction median and the existing curb, CCA performed localized demolition at expansion joints and balustrade. Delivery and placement of oversized precast panels, drainage material, temporary lighting, mobilization of equipment and grouting operations could only be performed during night shifts or full bridge closures,” Borhi says.

Site conditions were another challenge. The original contract required steel repairs on only five percent of the main floor beams located on the west end of the project. The full extent of existing steel deterioration could not be fully defined until the removal of the existing concrete deck and examination of the supporting structure was undertaken. The investigation of the structural steel resulted in an increase of mandatory steel repairs to approximately 97 percent of the floor beams. CCA anticipates encountering similar deterioration of the bridge’s steel structure under the second contract on the southbound roadway from spans 44 to 108. 

Steel repairs must be completed prior to placement of the new prefabricated bridge deck panels, subsequently altering the original sequencing of construction. Due to excessive weight of multiple layers of replacement concrete decking and the dilapidated state of the existing bridge structure, all of the activities supported by construction equipment required a detailed engineering analysis, calculations and layout drawings. Detailed inspections of the existing supporting floor beams and stringers are performed to validate that work activities can be safely conducted on the bridge deck without overstressing the structure. The installation of the precast panels were challenged by the bridge’s limitations to support a crane and a single tractor trailer delivering one panel in the same span, height restrictions within the two river crossings, access for cranes at grade and working within the flight path of Newark Liberty Airport. 

CCA and the NJDOT field inspectors were jointly tasked with surveying each floor beam to confirm the repair limits and type. CCA established an onsite steel fabrication facility to address the increasing magnitude of repairs required at the floor beams. Separate ironworker crews were established and concentrated on performing all of the mandatory repairs to the satisfaction of the NJDOT. After the completion and acceptance of the repairs, CCA would commence with the installation of the precast panels. CCA’s Chief Engineer, Dr. Kaizan Huang, led all engineering challenges presented by the mandatory construction activities required from demolition through reconstruction of the bridge along with engineering consultants McLaren Engineering Group and Siefert Associates.

Wittpenn Bridge

Another project with NJDOT is the Wittpenn Bridge project, with a contract value of $165 million, will provide for the new lift span over the Hackensack River. The new bridge is being built approximately 200 feet north of the existing bridge. The project designer for NJDOT is Jacobs Engineering. Expected to last 32 months, the project received its notice to proceed in March 2015, with October 2017 as the contractual substantial completion date. Numerous specialty subcontractors will participate on the project, with a team of more than 60 people working on the project at peak.

CCA’s duties include construction of the lift span and towers on the piers previously constructed in contract No. 1 and the Kearny approach to the west. The lift span, towers, counterweights, elevator and all electrical and mechanical systems will be completed so the span will be operational at the completion of the contract. The control house and machinery house are included in the lift span construction. The work covered under the contract includes the construction of the off-line portion of the main lift span over the Hackensack River on the Kearny side as well as the construction of piers 3W, 4W and 5W and construction of the superstructure for units two and three.

Among the main challenges on the project are planning and detailing the fabrication of the orthotropic deck lift span in three sections on the West Coast and transporting them via barge through the Panama Canal, up the East Coast to the project. The total weight of the three lift span sections is 1.6 million pounds. In addition, CCA will erect the lift span in thirds while ensuring access for the necessary special hoisting equipment. CCA is mobilizing a barge mounted 1000-ton capacity crane to perform the lifts. Through detailed planning, CCA has overcome the challenges of designing the temporary supports required for the erection of the lift span. Those being the assembly of the three lift span sections on the piers and erecting the lift span within the limited window of 14 days allowed by the agency over the navigable waterway.

“We put together a diverse team of experts in the fields of marine transportation, rigging specialists, structural and nautical engineers and specialty equipment suppliers,” Project Manager Jimmy Maldonado explains. 

As CCA Civil moves forward on these complex and demanding projects, its goal is to provide clients with the specialized, professional services and solutions that each project requires. CCA says it is confident that it will succeed on these signature projects and deliver a safe, high-quality facility that will serve the public for years to come. 

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