Project News

Steinhauer Bridge Rehab Proceeds Throughout Winter

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Since July 2011, Flatiron has been rehabilitating the Steinhauer Bridge over the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Crews are demolishing the superstructure—which includes the deck, girders, pier caps and bearings—and rebuilding the bridge, one side at a time.

“We’re basically done with stage one of demolition on the upstream half of the bridge,” said project manager Brian De Haan. “We’re rebuilding the pier caps, and then we will install girders.”

Two cranes will be used to place the bridge’s girders because the bridge can’t support the weight of a crane large enough to move the girders. Once Phase 1 is complete, crews will tackle the downstream half of the bridge. This operation will be similar to the first phase—demolish and rebuild—but on the opposite side of the bridge.

The new Steinhauer Bridge will be three lanes wide and carry southbound traffic over the Athabasca River. The bridge is being built to withstand the heavy loads carried by commercial vehicles that frequent Fort McMurray, a hub for work in the nearby Alberta Oil Sands region. The bridge is parallel to the Athabasca River Bridge, another Flatiron-built heavy-haul bridge completed in 2011. All traffic is being diverted to the Athabasca River Bridge during construction, but it will only carry northbound traffic once Steinhauer Bridge is complete in October 2013.

The project has an impressive safety record: zero lost- time and zero recordable incidents as of March. How do they do it? “Diligence,” said Brian. “There is a good safety culture up here. A lot of the guys have worked for the oil companies, which have stringent safety requirements.”

As part of the same C$51 million contract for owner Government of Alberta Ministry of Transportation, Flatiron is also building the second half of the nearby Franklin Avenue Bridge, which crosses over the Athabasca River and under the Steinhauer and Athabasca heavy-haul bridges to take vehicles into downtown Fort McMurray. The first half of that bridge was built as part of the Athabasca River Bridge contract.

Although this has been a relatively mild winter in Fort McMurray, it was still cold enough for the Athabasca River to freeze solid. “We worked from the ice for some of the work,” Brian says. “It helped us be more efficient because we were able to work from below instead of from above. We can demolish concrete onto the ice, clean it up and haul it away much easier.”

But the harsh winter weather and remote location of this project also makes some things more challenging. “Cutting the concrete deck in the fall was difficult because we use a wet saw, and the water freezes.” said Brian. “And getting materials takes just a little longer.”

Brian, a California native, used to work for Flatiron’s underground group in Orange County. “The weather is a bit different up here,” Brian jokes. “But we have the Northern Lights!”

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