On Friday July 31st we set off for Cleveland early in the morning, our destination the scruffy industrial areas of the flats on West 3rd Street, the starting point for a tour of the construction site for the Innerbelt Bridge. Our tour guides, Jocelynn Clemings from ODOT and Karen Lenehan from consortium of construction companies building the bridge, lead our group on a tour underneath the completed eastbound bridge as well as the under construction westbound side.
From here you could see the pier construction. A pier has four main sections, including steel piles hammered into bedrock 200 feet below ground. At 90 feet long, the piles for the first and second bridges are the largest ever manufactured in this country. They’re so big and so heavy, only two can be delivered by truck at any one time, and the loads require a police escort.
When the piles are sunk, excavation begins for construction of the foot. There are two “feet” under each pier – two giant concrete blocks that are 28 feet by 28 feet by 8.5 feet. It takes 25 truckloads of concrete for each footer.
With the footers complete, crews start building the columns of piers in sections — a starter section 8 to 12 feet tall, a 20-foot mid-section, a 20-foot top section and a flared section on top of that. The columns have sides 18 inches thick and a hollow core, which reduces the overall weight of the structure.
Columns are topped with caps that are shaped with steel bar and forms and then filled with concrete. The caps are between 87 and 113 feet long and 16 feet tall. It takes almost 70 concrete trucks on site to deliver the 675 cubic yards of concrete for each cap.
As we started our tour we could observe the workers under the completed bridge sitting on safety netting 150 feet up doing some finishing work on the underside.
The sight of the massive steel supports being hoisted into the air and secured onto the beams is very impressive. All of this work occurred next to the active freeway and along/underneath an active rail line.
All in all this was a very unique experience that we won’t soon forget.