2006-04-20 / News

The old Jamestown Bridge center span comes down with an explosive splash

By Sam Bari

The skyline appeared empty shortly after the center span of the old Jamestown Bridge was demolished Tuesday. Photo by Jeff McDonough The skyline appeared empty shortly after the center span of the old Jamestown Bridge was demolished Tuesday. Photo by Jeff McDonough Jamestown Bridge Project Manager Dick Zellen and Project Superintendent John McNulty of Cashman Equipment Corporation of Boston were all smiles Tuesday afternoon.

The crews from Cashman and their subcontractors, the Fay Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., and DemTech, Inc., of DuBois, Wyo., successfully dropped the 1,100foot center span of the old Jamestown Bridge into Narragansett Bay.

Using 350 separate charges totaling 75 pounds of controlled explosives placed in strategic spots to accomplish the task, the span fell without incident.

"Everything went exactly as planned," said McNulty. "It was as perfect as could be expected."

The controlled charges were detonated at 11 a.m., and by noon, Route 138 and the new Jamestown-Verrazzano Bridge was reopened to traffic. The roads were closed for only two hours, half the time allotted for the event to take place.

"We worked all weekend preparing for this," McNulty said. "It took three days to put all the charges in place," he noted. Saturday afternoon a squall containing wind, thunder, lightning, and hail pelted the crew.

"All it did was get everybody wet," McNulty said.

"Nobody was hurt. It was kind of exciting, but we pressed on and by late Monday, we were ready. This morning, everybody worked together and we pulled it off without a hitch," he added.

As if the bay were a stage for a well-rehearsed, choreographed play, the history-making event concluded as predicted - with an explosive finish. Spectators lining the shores in planned viewing areas first saw the flash of the detonated charges immediately followed by smoke as the bridge collapsed.

Then the wall of sound created by the explosions reverberated across the bay in every direction and rushed over the shores, causing the sensation of a weak shock wave with a slight tremor. White water shot over 50 feet into the air as 6,000 tons of steel dropped into Narragansett Bay, right on schedule. Spectators waited on the shores for hours to witness the spectacular event that was over in seconds.

"In the next couple of days, two barges will be positioned so the ringer crane has someplace to deposit the steel," McNulty explained.

Divers will attach sections of the sunken steel superstructure to the gargantuan 300-ton crane, and they will be lifted from the chilly bay waters and deposited onto the

barges 90 tons at a time. The total cleanup and retrieval of the steel for recycling is expected to take six to eight weeks.

"We have until May 31 to have the bay open to navigation according to our contract," McNulty noted. "It's a slow process that can be dangerous if not done carefully," he added.

The center span is the largest section of the bridge, but with its demise, only one third of the job is complete.

Before the Memorial Day holiday this May, the second of three major controlled explosive events is scheduled to drop the deck trusses and girder spans on both sides of what was the center span that was demolished Tuesday.

During this next event, over 2,200 feet of elevated roadway will be dropped into the bay. During the third explosive event, slated for just before or after the July 4 holiday, the central supporting piers will be the subjects of the final blast.

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