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Crack Closes Historic Harbor Bridge

Thursday, November 10, 2016

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Work is underway to address a large fatigue crack found in the girder of a historic bridge that serves as the main entryway to the town of Stone Harbor in Cape May County, NJ.

The 86-year-old drawbridge has been closed since Oct. 28 after it was deemed unsafe for vehicles to travel across, according to the Press of Atlantic City. The structure, which connects Stone Harbor to the mainland, is also closed to ships and boats that would require it to open for passage.

Repairs are reportedly making use of a technology developed during World War II.

Vertical Crack Found

According to preliminary assessments, one of the movable spans on the 96th Street Bridge had shifted downward, and a county crew doing electrical maintenance on the span discovered a large vertical crack near a pivot point on one of its main movable girders, Shore News Today reported.

Michael Baker International Inc. reportedly inspects the county’s bridges on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Transportation every two years. According to the county, the bridge had just undergone an inspection two weeks earlier, and “There was no crack at that point,” Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster noted.

Engineers and inspectors from Michael Baker were on hand to inspect the bridge again after the closure and to help in developing the repair plan.

Back into Position

As part of the strategy, the county is turning to a system similar to a “Bailey bridge,” used by British and American troops in WWII.

A Bailey bridge, designed by British War Office civil servant David Bailey in the early 1940s, is described as a portable, prefabricated, truss bridge. These bridges required no special tools or heavy equipment, such as cranes, to install, but were strong enough to support tank traffic.

Bailey Bridge in France
Cham / CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The repair strategy will employ a system similar to the portable, prefabricated “Bailey bridges” used by British and American troops in WWII—crews  will be using a 120-foot temporary prefabricated truss to repair the 96th Street Bridge.

In New Jersey, crews will be using a 120-foot temporary prefabricated truss to repair the structure. Crews will have to jack the span back into place and mend the crack as well.

“The hardest part of this is getting the cracked girder back into its original position,” Foster said. “We have to jack it back into position so the crack will close.”

Next, a steel plate will be welded onto the girder to restore its original load-bearing capacity. Foster said no weight restrictions were expected as a result of the repair.

However, he added, “This is definitely going to take a week if not a little longer to make the repairs.”

As of Friday (Nov. 4), the prefabricated materials to build the truss had been delivered to the site and crews were assembling it.

The “Bailey-type” truss is shipped in segments and can be bolted together quickly, according to Foster. When that is ready, welders will begin working on the girder, he explained.

Foster could not yet offer an estimate of repair costs, as it would depend on time as well as the materials used. However, he did say the repairs would be financed by a county fund earmarked for bridge repairs.

As of Friday (Nov. 4), the bridge was expected to be closed for another two weeks.

Historic Structure

Built in 1930, the county-owned bridge is considered historic because it is the only Rall-type bascule bridge in the state, according to NJDOT. Moreover, it is believed to be one of only six bridges of this style in the country, according to the county.

The bridge reportedly last saw renovation work in 1999, when the main span had some mechanical components replaced.

Prior to that, approach spans were replaced and the main span reconstructed from 1983 to 1985, at which time additional repairs and repainting occurred.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Cracks; Department of Transportation (DOT); Inspection; North America; Quality Control; Steel

Comment from Scott Youngs, (11/10/2016, 12:08 PM)

With the mass number of ageing bridges in our country, it's good to see inspections uncovering damage before it becomes catastrophic. Let's hope that all of the state, county & federal DOT's increase inspections.


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