Catt. County Employees ‘Bridge’ Gap In Ashford

LITTLE VALLEY – What is 20 feet tall, 18 feet wide, 204 feet long, and designed for people and motor vehicles? The answer is the Ashford Bridge No. 53 Project which is being installed by Cattaraugus County Department of Public Works employees. This large and challenging capital project is a first of its kind designed and constructed by county employees, and involved several weeks of preparation before it could be installed safely and successfully. This project also had a personal challenge for Public Works employees … saying goodbye to one of their own, a 37-year supervisor who retired during the final stages of project completion.

Ashford 53 was a wooden railroad bridge located on East Otto-Springville Road near Edies Siding. This project was designed in-house by the county’s Engineering Department and is a complete replacement of the current structure, which is the county’s temporary Mabey Bridge. Once the new structure is installed, the temporary bridge will be removed, and the current structure will be backfilled, graded and paved. The wooden bridge was removed on May 5, 2008, because of its poor condition and then replaced by the temporary Maybey Bridge.

Cattaraugus County DPW has replaced several bridges over the years, and has become very proficient in this type of project. This bridge is constructed using a galvanized multi-plate steel pipe that will be put together, piece-by-piece, by DPW employees.

Pre-construction work included several hurdles before any work could be started. Easements onto the property from landowners and Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad had to be obtained.

Once that was accomplished, crews began to build an access road into the construction area (where 204-foot pipe would be installed). Equipment and manpower were then able to clear brush and vegetation, grade the area, and build a solid foundation for the 204-foot pipe installation.

To ensure proper drainage and to prevent water from flowing in the pipe itself, 1,000 feet of ditch was cleaned and reformed on both sides of the construction area. Crews then installed two, 220 feet of 24-inch concrete pipe to allow water to flow easily underground and prevent any water from entering the 204-foot pipe.

After several weeks of preparation work, crews were ready to begin the installation of the 204-foot galvanized steel pipe. All work had to be performed safely and underneath the current temporary bridge. This allowed traffic to flow without any disruption or even a hint that a large construction project was taking place below.

Once the proper depth was reached by an excavator operator, the hole was surveyed and leveled to accept the initial pieces of the pipe which would set the level and grade for the entire structure.

For Jim Burmester, Road Section supervisor of the West Valley and Franklinville Highway Barns and 37-year veteran of DPW, it would be his last project of his career with Public Works. “We wanted to do this project,” Burmester said.

Jim had been instrumental in completing a large culvert project in 2012 that saved taxpayers more than $200,000.

“Performing this project in-house demonstrates the confidence the county has in our team and employees. It also provides an opportunity to use our experience, expertise, and knowledge on a first-ever project of this type. I knew our team and employees could complete this project in less time and save taxpayers money by performing the work in-house.”

The structure was delivered to the job site by three tractor-trailers, and consisted of 223 separate, 5-foot by 12-foot steel plates. County employees from West Valley and Franklinville highway barns, Engineering Division, and Bridge Crew worked together to put the structure together piece-by-piece.

“This bridge project is significant for all highway employees for two reasons,” said Adrian Phearsdorf, assistant Road Section supervisor, West Valley Highway Barn. “First, it’s a large and challenging project we can take pride in for building it in-house; and secondly for working together with Jim on his last project before retirement.”

Shawn Bryant, CDL driver, reiterated the same sentiment: “It has been a great opportunity for me to work with Jim over the years on a variety of projects. This project has more meaning because it was accomplished with Jim before his retirement.”

Employees spent two weeks putting the structure together like a jigsaw puzzle, using air and hand tools to tighten 11,540 bolts. Each steel plate had a specific position in which it was placed to ensure the integrity and strength of the overall structure. One misplaced plate could bring the job to a dead stop, and delay the project or make the structure unstable if left undone. Crews checked and re-checked each piece before and after its installation. Bolts were not tightened to torque specifications until the structure was completed. The installation and build-out of the 117,000 pound, 204-foot pipe was completed on Aug. 2.

“Everything we’ve learned over the years is put into practice out in the field,” said Matt McAndrew, chief engineering tech and a 34-year veteran of DPW. “This maximizes our resources and minimizes potential problems or barriers. Jim and his crew were impressive in the amount of work completed each and everyday, considering the rigorous installation process, 11,540 bolts and 223 separate steel plates, and heat and humidity. Jim and his crew can be proud of their accomplishment and the benefit it will provide the county in the decades to come.”

The next phase of this project is the daunting task of backfilling the hole and compacting the soil. Upon completion, the temporary Maybey Bridge will be taken apart, loaded onto a flatbed, and brought back to the DPW facility for storage and future use. Crews will then level, grade and pave the road for traffic to flow once again.

“This project was designed in-house to save taxpayers time and money,” said Mark Burr, P.E., director of engineering. “We were able to build a structure that was safe, high quality, and meet the needs of the community at a reasonable cost. We knew that this large undertaking could be accomplished safely and successfully under Jim’s supervision and oversight. That’s what happens when you put experience, communication, and teamwork together. We will all miss him.”

“Close coordination among various members of the team made this challenging project run smoothly,” said Tim Roth, engineering drafter, “Everyone knew what needed to be done and their task would contribute to the project’s overall success.”

Upon completion of the backfill, DPW Bridge Crew members will disassemble the temporary Maybe Bridge and haul it back to the DPW facility. The roadway will be brought up to grade and paved. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

Mark Burr, P.E., stated: “Thank you to the team for a job well done. Our employees did a great job, and we wish Jim the best in his retirement.”