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After 83 Years, Gone in 4 Seconds

Thursday, February 23, 2012

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The Fort Steuben Bridge, which once carried more than 20,000 vehicles a day between Ohio and West Virginia, vanished this week in a blaze of explosives.

Dispatched by one blast packing 153 pounds of explosives, the Ohio River suspension bridge disappeared at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 21) in a ball of flame and smoke as part of a $2.3 million demolition job.

 Video of Fort Steuben Bridge demolition

 Ohio DOT

With help from 153 pounds of explosives, the Fort Steuben vanished in less than five seconds.

An Ohio Department of Transportation video captured the implosion.

Demolition of the bridge by the Joseph B. Fay Co., of Russellton, PA, began last month, with the removal of the deck and every other part that was accessible by land. Tuesday’s controlled implosion was performed by Controlled Demolition Inc., of Phoenix, MD.

Demo Deconstructed

The implosion involved laying charges designed to cut key bridge components sequentially, Becky Giauque, ODOT District 11 spokeswoman, told Construction Equipment Guide.

“CDI’s segmentation of the steel trusses, suspension cables, and main towers allowed for a more efficient, time-saving and safer demolition operation compared to conventional methods,” she said.

 The Veterans Memorial Bridge (rear) replaced the Fort Steuben Bridge in 1990

 Chuck May

The Veterans Memorial Bridge (rear) replaced the Fort Steuben Bridge in 1990.

“The basic premise of explosives operation is to isolate the key structural members of the bridge and cut them with linear-shaped charges to safely segment and drop the bridge to the surface below.”

The contractor used 136 total “cut points” along selected chords, diagonals, suspension cables and towers. The detonation began on the Ohio side and ended in West Virginia.

In the end, said Giauque, “The bridge collapsed four to five seconds after initiation of the detonators.”

A Structure in Decline

Built in 1928, the Fort Steuben was considered well beyond the end of its useful life. The bridge once carried U.S. Route 22 and then Ohio State Route 822, drawing more than 20,000 vehicles daily in its prime.

But the 1,584-foot bridge was also barely 20 feet wide, and officials said it could not be widened.

 This is the view from the West Virginia side, during the 1936 flood of the Ohio River

 Weirton Area Museum & Cultural Center

Back in the day: The view is from the West Virginia side, during the 1936 flood of the Ohio River.

In 1990, Ohio DOT opened the cable-stayed, concrete and steel Veterans Memorial Bridge, to replace the Fort Steuben. The bridges are a half-mile apart.

By 2006, weight limits had been imposed on the deteriorating Fort Steuben, and truck traffic was banned.

In early 2009, Ohio DOT announced that the bridge would be demolished as a result of what engineers called “significantly deteriorating changes in the floor condition.” That analysis followed the discovery of a slight dip in the floor detected during maintenance.

By then functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, the Fort Steuben was closed to traffic in January 2009. Plans for its demolition began that fall.

Looking Ahead

Cleanup and remaining demolition tasks should be completed in July, Ohio DOT says.

And, the agency adds, the newer US 22 Bridge “is structurally adequate and provides a sufficient level of service and roadway capacity for the region now and into the future.”

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Maintenance programs; Structural steel

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