2006-05-25 / Front Page

Demolition an explosive success

By Sam Bari

The second bridge demolition sent concrete piers tumbling into the bay last Thursday. Photo by Don Miller The second bridge demolition sent concrete piers tumbling into the bay last Thursday. Photo by Don Miller On Thursday morning, May 18, at 11:30 a.m., the deck trusses and supporting piers of the old Jamestown Bridge dropped into Narragansett Bay with a resounding splash. The boom of 75 explosive charges, reminiscent of cannons fired in days of old, echoed across windswept waters accompanied by cheers of spectators lining the shores a safe distance away.

"Everything went well," said project engineer Patrick O'Mally, of Cashman Equipment Company of Boston, after the event was over. "A few pieces fell at odd angles embedding themselves back into the superstructure, but they were easily removed. We used the smaller crane to drop a cable over the embedded sections, then tied them off and connected them to a tugboat. The tugboat did what tugboats do, and pulled the pieces over so they could be retrieved. We didn't have to do additional cutting, which would have been dangerous. Overall, we are very pleased," O'Mally added.

"We are now operating on an accelerated schedule. Another blasting event will not be required around the fourth of July as originally planned," O'Mally said. "The water under what was the old center span will be cleared of debris by the end of next week and open to limited traffic. The two end areas will be cleared in about eight weeks if everything continues according to schedule," he noted.

The controlled explosives in this second major detonation removed approximately 1,600 feet of the two deck trusses stretching 800 feet on either side of the gap left from the removal of the bridge's center span. In this event, the top 50 feet of the central supporting piers were detonated at the same time, causing a simultaneous explosion that dropped the piers into the bay with the deck trusses.

Now, the new JamestownVerrazzano Bridge all but stands alone, redefining the Jamestown skyline. All that is left of the old bridge is the bottom half of a few support piers and the remains of the end roadways, which will be removed by small underwater charges. The event closed Route 138 and nearby town roads on either side of the new bridge for less than two-and-a-half hours. The roads were reopened to traffic before 12:30 p.m.

For the next few months, barges will haul concrete and steel out of Narragansett Bay. The steel will be recycled and the concrete will be used to form artificial reefs in three different locations. Should the new bridge require additional closures, they will be few and are not expected to last more than half an hour at a time.

According to Chief Public Affairs Officer Dana Alexander Nolfe of the state Department of Transportation, the DOT as well as the public are both happy with Cashman Equipment Corporation of Boston's performance. All believe that the blasting and disassembly of the bridge has gone well, with as little impact to residents and the environment as possible. "Everything is on or ahead of schedule, so we are very pleased," Nolfe said.

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