On April 22, 2022, as the clock counted down to 7 p.m., a sense of anticipation was palpable among the team on the Veranda Street Bridge replacement project in Portland, Maine. Their task over the next two and a half days was to close down one of the busiest stretches of road in Maine, demolish the existing structure along Interstate 295, and install the new bridge using remote-controlled self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs). This would be the first time this method of accelerated bridge construction was used in the state of Maine.
“At the beginning of this job, we knew we had a challenge,” said Mike Franck, Safety Manager on the Veranda Street project. “At the kick-off meeting, we got together with the management team, and we said, ‘for this to fly, we’ve got to have everybody buy in.’ And by buy-in, I mean attitudes. It’s not subcontractors, it’s not Cianbro, it’s a team.”
It was a tall task with a tight deadline. Cianbro set the expectation that traffic would be driving over the new stretch of Interstate 295 before 7 a.m. Monday. Senior Project Engineer Tom Senior knew he had the right team to get the job done.
“Teamwork was very important on this project, between Cianbro, Shaw Brothers, Mammoet, and other major trade partners,” said Senior shortly after the new bridge was successfully rolled into place. “All in all, we’ve had hundreds of people help us get to where we are today, from planning and building the abutments and bridge decks, to the work we did throughout the road closure weekend.”
The need for the project was evident. The existing bridge over Veranda Street had significantly deteriorated since it was erected in 1961. In 2017, the Maine Department of Transportation determined it was structurally deficient. In addition, Veranda Street itself had become notorious for car accidents below the bridge due to a confusing traffic pattern. Though the bridge replacement over Veranda Street required the lion’s share of work, the team also constructed a safer intersection on lower Veranda Street.
When Cianbro was awarded the project, they were presented with two options on how they wanted to execute the bridge replacement. The first was a lateral slide technique using slide jacks, but the team opted for the second, a novel approach using SPMTs to roll the bridge into place. This allowed the bridge to be built closer to the ground and farther from active traffic, enhancing safety for team members and motorists.
For that, Cianbro brought in Mammoet, an international leader in heavy lifting and transporting oversized objects. Cianbro had previously worked alongside Mammoet to transport modules weighing up to 384,000 pounds on the Motiva refinery expansion project. Though Cianbro has tackled similar bridge replacements in the past, Chet Muckenhirn, Senior Project Manager for the Veranda Street shutdown, said not only was this an innovative and complex bridge changeout in a short period of time, it also involved more trade partners than usual.
“To plan for a closure like this, you have to plan the work, and work the plan, and truly understand what’s going to happen every hour,” said Muckenhirn. “Everyone was part of a team, and everyone had their script that they had to follow to make sure it all happened successfully.”
With the closure of this section of Interstate 295 in place for the bridge move, the team decided to take advantage of the situation by tackling work on two other bridges near Exit 8. The demolition and reconstruction of four separate bridge joints within the weekend outage eliminated the need for extended periods of night-time lane closure work.
“I look back on this weekend and think about all the preparation and attention to detail that went into every aspect of this work,” said Cal Senesac, Assistant Project Superintendent. “Everyone played a critical role in making this project successful and it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts given from the team leading up and through the outage. It’s impressive what we accomplished, and everyone should take pride in that.”
The team sprang into action as soon as the clock hit 7 p.m. Friday. Seventeen excavators converged on the existing structure and began demolition. Sixty hours later, just after the sun had risen over Casco Bay on Monday morning, traffic began flowing across the bridge over Veranda Street. Not only did the team finish the project, but they did it four hours before the deadline.
“It’s a great feeling. Hey, we did it,” added Franck. “But it doesn’t stop here. It goes to the next project. Then the next one. That’s what we’re all about.”