Who could forget the absolute destruction Hurricane Harvey caused when it hit Texas on August 25, 2017? The massive storm brought with it not only damaging hurricane-force winds of up to 130 mph, but an incredible 51 inches of rainfall, all in just a short few days. With such a heavy amount of rainfall, all area rivers, ditches and dams overflowed their banks, causing mass flooding and devastation the area had never experienced before. Waterways like the idyllic San Jacinto River, which normally could be fished with waders, became raging torrents, carrying with them trees and debris as the water raced down to the Gulf of Mexico.
As all storms eventually do, Harvey dissipated, and the water levels began to recede. At this point it was crucial that the infrastructure of bridges in the area be promptly inspected for any potential damage caused by the flooding. One bridge, the Highway 59/Interstate 69 Bridge in Humble, Texas, was of immediate concern because of the tons of debris that had collected on and around its piers, columns and piles. After a thorough inspection of the structure, it was determined that the increased water flow and rate of speed had scoured the river bottom from around the piles. This was a river that used to be just 15-20 feet deep under the bridge, that had now doubled to 30-40 feet. The bridge’s piles, that used to be well embedded into the river bottom, now had less than 50 percent embedment. Consequently, the bridge was now highly unstable and could have fatal consequences if not tended to right away.
Since the condition of the bridge posed serious hazards, repair became a top priority. Quotes were tendered for an emergency renovation, which would involve selectively removing the center three spans of the bridge that were located directly over the river channel. As a major highway route leading in and out of Houston, this project was deemed extremely time-sensitive by the Texas Department of Transportation who allotted only 113 days for the bridge to be closed to traffic. When general contractor Webber LLC was awarded the project, they knew concrete cutting would be the ideal method of selective demolition due to its ability to safely remove specific portions of the bridge without damaging others. Now all they needed was to contract a concrete cutting company for the demolition portion of the project with a track record of producing quality work within a narrow timeline. That’s when they called CSDA member Aggregate Technologies, Inc..
Aggregate has highly experienced management, staff and operators, all backed by a wide variety of equipment and technology. For these reasons Aggregate was the perfect contractor for the job! Webber tasked Aggregate with taking down the required three spans of the bridge from the top deck and performing underwater wire cutting of the piles as well. Prior to making their first cut, Aggregate had to consider safety, efficiency and speed while determining which methods and procedures they’d use to acco
mplish the tasks of this important job.
Before Aggregate could begin their portion of the work, Webber had to tackle the bridge deck. Webber started demolition by hammering the bridge deck into rubble with a hoe ram attached to an excavator. The rubble was dropped onto a barge tethered in the river underneath the bridge and then collected and removed with the use of a skid steer loader. Next, the main beams were lifted by crane out of place and removed from the site. This left three sets of bents, caps, columns, footers and piles for Aggregate to cut and remove, with each bent consisting of three separate structures. The original bridge had been widened twice, once on the outside and once on the inside. A different design was used on each widening phase, leaving Aggregate working on a variety of different piles, caps and piers. Meticulous attention to detail and regularly adjusting equipment during the duration of this project were determining factors in completing the job on time.
Aggregate used Diamond Products wire saws with wire lengths between 35 and 60 feet to cut the caps and piers first. Then, they continued wire cutting the piles that were underwater, to ready the footers to be lifted off and removed by crane. Finally, Aggregate operators used Prime Marine Services Model 24 hydraulic shears to cut the piles off at the mudline.
Once the first set of piers was removed, new drill shafts were installed and the drilling and demolition continued simultaneously until all the old structures were removed. The job certainly wasn’t without its challenges though. The changing tides required operators to make constant alterations to just about everything on the job site. Tools and equipment had to be adjusted regularly. Additionally, barges and cranes had to be simultaneously maneuvered, within very tight spaces, so each operator could continue their respective operations safely.
Once Agregate completed all their cutting tasks, it was time for Webber LLC to step in again. Webber systematically rebuilt the bridge like a large LEGO set: drilled shafts, placed caps, beams, deck and barrier walls, then voila! The new bridge was ready for traffic again. Take that, Hurricane Harvey!
The Texas Department of Transportation had allowed for liquidated damages should the project go past the allotted time. They also offered a performance bonus for every day under the 113-day time limit, up to a maximum of 10 days. Not only was the bridge completed and reopened to traffic on time, but the full 10-day performance bonus was presented to Aggregate for their efforts. Great job, guys!
Project manager, Greg Major, praised the project saying, “This job went very well for us despite the challenges of working within close proximity to Webber LLC and our respective work schedules. I believe the experience and professionalism of our operators was a key factor in this project meeting its goals and expectations.”
Aggregate Technologies, Inc. has been in business for 20 years and a CSDA member since 2013. Headquartered in Houston, TX, they offer a variety of services including: core drilling, wire sawing, wall sawing, slab sawing, pile cutting, GPR scanning, hydro-demolition, concrete demolition and select robotic demolition. They currently operate with 35 employees and while they perform most of their work in Texas, they are available for jobs nationwide.
The Woodlands, TX
CSDA Cutting Contractor
Aggregate Technologies, Inc.
Wire sawing, hydraulic shears