Plans for the Checkered
House Bridge project in Richmond date back to June 2010, when the contractor
who was bidding on the project first visited the site. It was snowing. He knew
then this project would be something special. The first step in February 2011
was to erect a temporary bridge. But what happened on
Monday can only be described as
the big move.
"The intent of the
project is to take this 90-year-old truss and turn it from a 20-foot roadway to
an approximately 36 and a half foot roadway," said Jeff DiStefano of
Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Construction.
So how exactly do you
split an almost 100-year-old metal truss bridge in half and then add another 12
and a half feet to it? Very carefully. After some careful structural
preparation that took months, including support trusses and new abutments to
accommodate the wider bridge, the south truss of the bridge was cut from the
rest of the span. Then the big push began-- one
half inch at a time.
"I feel that once the
south truss is freed from the rest of the bridge that it should start to move
uniformly and we can move it six inches at a time and get to our final
destination sometime (Tuesday) I hope," DiStefano said.
Once the truss is moved to
its new spot, support beams will be added, then decking.
The total cost of this
widening project is $13.9 million. Some say that's twice what it would have
cost to build a new bridge.
"I would say it would
have probably been less expensive to replace the old truss, but then again
there is only this and one other truss like this left in the country, so it was
built in the 1920s and we are trying to preserve history," DiStefano said.
And preserving this piece
of history is taking precision, and patience.
Officials hope to have the
Checkered House Bridge reopened by Thanksgiving. Transportation officials say
it was not a cut and dried choice between restoring or building a new bridge.
Regional planners and historic preservation experts supported spending more to
renovate because the bridge is so historically significant.
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