CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Now that the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge between Nitro and St. Albans is no more, construction crews are engaged in a careful balancing act to prepare the way for its replacement.
The last piece of steel from the 73-year-old bridge fell into the Kanawha River on March 8. Shortly after that, crews with Kokosing Construction of St. Albans constructed a steel platform on the pier closest to the St. Albans side of the river to prepare for the next phase of the project.
The state is spending $23.6 million on the new, wider replacement. The new bridge will have three lanes and a 5-foot-wide sidewalk to allow pedestrian traffic.
While the steel superstructure has been stripped away, the bridge's original piers will remain and be used to support the new span.
Kokosing crews spent nine months last year doing initial work to refurbish the piers. Now that the steel superstructure is gone, workers are refurbishing the piers' caps to prepare them to support the wider bridge.
To make way for the caps, workers have to chip away at some of the old concrete to make room for new material.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Bly said that after building the steel platform, workers used a barge-based crane to lift a special piece of equipment nearly 60 feet above the water to the top of the bridge pier.
"It's a backhoe with a hydraulic ram," Bly said. "What that piece of equipment is doing is chipping off the old concrete pier cap."
The operators are essentially concrete whittlers. Once they get down to a certain point on the pier cap, crews will bring in some additional equipment to do some more intricate detail work on the cap.