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Cracked PA-NJ Bridge Reopens to Traffic

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge, which connects the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and which closed suddenly in January when a complete fracture was found in a steel truss, has reopened.

Officials from the two states, whose turnpike agencies own the bridge jointly, had predicted an April reopening for the bridge, which carries thousands of vehicles every day. But after concluding repairs and testing loading and stresses on the structure, they decided it was ready for traffic on Thursday night (March 9).

Fractured truss
Images: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

The bridge was first shut down on Jan. 20, when workers performing a routine inspection of a painting job discovered the crack, in a truss on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge.

“Given the number of experts who have inspected, tested and studied it over the last 49 days, it’s safe to say this bridge is perhaps the most scrutinized structure in the nation and maybe the world,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike Chief Engineer Brad Heigel.

Permanent Splice

Heigel oversaw a team of engineers and construction crews that repaired the bridge by installing a temporary splice, then raising the bridge with jacking towers, brought the truss back into alignment and made a permanent splice.

Temporary splice

Crews installed a temporary splice (pictured) before jacking the bridge up and constructing the permanent splice.

The splice was the simplest possible permanent fix, and when the plan was first established, officials had warned that if it wasn’t sufficient, the bridge could be closed for much longer, or even subject to complete replacement.

Engineers performed load testing with sensors as eight dump trucks carrying 40 tons of aggregate were driven across the bridge, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said. Testing showed that the bridge could handle traffic once more.

“The repaired truss member is now much sturdier than the original because of the splice,” Heigel said.

Paint Inspection Uncovered Fracture

The bridge was first shut down on Jan. 20, when workers performing a routine inspection of a painting job discovered the crack, in a truss on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge, situated under the westbound right lane. The fracture separated the truss completely in two.

Delaware River Turnpike Bridge

The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge opened in 1956, and reportedly carries about 42,000 vehicles per day.

Portions of the truss were sent to a lab for testing, and an official cause has not yet been established, but some have speculated that plug welds done during the manufacture of the truss could have led to a weak spot. Turnpike officials also said that the problem could have been exacerbated by cold weather, or one or more overweight trucks using the bridge.

The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge opened in 1956, and reportedly carries about 42,000 vehicles per day. It is 1.2 miles long, and is part of a stretch of I-295 that connects the New Jersey Turnpike with the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Girder; Infrastructure; Rehabilitation/Repair; Steel; Structural steel

Comment from Jeffrey Smith, (3/14/2017, 7:11 AM)

It looks like the splice plates were cut with a torch. Are the gouges with in the roughness requirements as discribed in the AWS D1.5?


Comment from Andy Mulkerin, (3/14/2017, 8:20 AM)

Hi Jeffrey et al -- I should note that the close-up photo above is of the first, temporary splice. Our caption may not have made that completely clear, so I'll edit for clarity. Close-ups of the permanent splice haven't been made available. Thanks for reading! -- Andy, PaintSquare News


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