ORLAND, Maine — Beam me up, Scotty.
That was the watchword Friday as crews from Lane Construction Corp., using two cranes, hoisted the large, concrete beams into place across the Orland River. The beams will form the base for the deck of the new bridge the crew is constructing to carry Route 175 across the river.
“We’ve been thinking about how to get this done ever since we got the contract, “ said Nate Wrigley, Lane’s job engineer at the site. “This is the first time we’ve done this.”
Each of the five precast concrete beams was 88 feet long and weighed 80,000 pounds. The state of Maine, which awarded the contract for the job to Lane, insisted that the company use two cranes to move the beams into place in order to avoid stresses on the beams that might damage them.
According to Wrigley, they set a 175-ton crane on the downhill side of the river and a larger, 240-ton crane on the opposite shore. Lane engineers designed a triangular steel clamp that allowed both cranes to hook onto one end of the beams at the same time.
The smaller crane, which had a reach of only about 27 feet, lifted the beam from the retractable flat bed delivery truck and moved it out over the river. When that crane reached its limit, the larger crane picked up the slack and took the load.
The smaller crane then hooked onto the opposite end of the beam and together they moved the beam onto the abutments.
“We were a little nervous,” Wrigley said. “But everything went really smooth — better than I thought it would.”
Guided by crews on the ground, the cranes eased the large beams into place onto thick rubber bearing pads that prevent concrete beams from rubbing on the concrete abutment. The ends of the beams will be encased in concrete on either side of the river, Wrigley said.
Although the beams look overly large — and are, according to Wrigley, overengineered — the road will be about the same height as it was before the project began. The new bridge will be slightly wider than the old one, with a sidewalk on the left as you face up the hill. The project calls for what is known as a Texas classic rail, which is similar to what had been there before.
Work on the $1,019,799 project to replace the Orland River Bridge began in August when crews removed the old bridge.
The crew expected to have all five of the beams in place by the end of the day Friday. The beams will form a base for the concrete deck of the new bridge.
“We need to get all our safety devices in place, and then we’ll start work on the deck,” Wrigley said.
He said the crews hope to have the deck in place by the end of the month. The contract calls for the bridge to be open to traffic by Nov. 15.