Veterans Glass City Skyway (Interstate 280)

The Veterans Glass City Skyway carries Interstate 280 over the Maumee River. The cable-stayed suspension bridge was completed in 2007 and was the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) biggest single construction project in history.1


Planning

Planning for a new Maumee River crossing to replace the Craig Memorial Bridge began in 1988, when a Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments report noted that the existing drawbridge crossing needed to be replaced or bypassed.3 12 Federal funds for preliminary planning came through in 1991, but it was not until 1998 that ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council allocated $200 million in state and federal funds towards the project.

ODOT recommended that a bridge be built alongside existing Interstate 280.3 During a series of public meetings, ODOT project planners and HNTB/Parsons Brinckerhoff 12 showcased potential designs for the new bridge, including a box-girder, truss, suspension and cable-stayed designs. A tunnel option had been eliminated due to its very high cost.4 The box-girder and truss alternatives were dismissed and public opinion favored the cable-stayed for being the most distinctive. Later meetings revealed that most attendees preferred a single, center pylon with stays radiating down to the deck, glass panels inlaid in the center tower with internal lighting and stainless steel sheathing on the cables.3 The public also voiced support for the planting of native shrubs and grasses onto the new Interstate 280 right-of-way, bike paths, and new park space.

Naming the bridge was fairly easy, as most opted for either Veterans’ Memorial Bridge and Glass City Skyway during a survey in 2001.3 4 The decision, which rested with the state, involved a merger of the two into Veterans Glass City Skyway.

The cable-stayed bridge was designed by FIGG of Tallahassee, Florida.12


Construction

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Skyway was held on May 11, 2001,1 and bids were opened for the project on January 15, 2002.12 The $220 million contract with Fru-Con Construction of Ballwin, Missouri (now Bilfinger Berger Civil, Inc.) was awarded in March.1 Work was projected to be complete by October 26, 2006.

Within three months of the construction letting, Fru-Con began drilling foundation shafts for the new bridge piers and started work on a cofferdam in the Maumee River for the main pylon. The company also ordered two gantry-truss cranes from an Italian manufacturer.1 By July 2003, the Skyway was 45% complete and assembly of the East Toledo approach viaduct had begun. The project was 405 days ahead of schedule and was so far ahead that Fru-Con and ODOT announced an agreement to complete work by Labor Day 2005.

The bridge was fabricated at a yard on Front Street over a two-year timeframe.1 Reinforced concrete was used throughout the Skyway, and all materials, 3,008 deck segments and 42 85-ton delta frames, were pre-built at the yard.6 The first delta frame, cast on August 29, 2002, comprised of an epoxy-covered steel reinforcing frame. The frame took 90 minutes to fill and a month to cure. The main pylon was poured in stages from 32 feet below the riverbed to 403¼ feet above the river.1

Complications

On February 16, 2004, one of two yellow gantry truss cranes that were used to assemble the spans peeled away from its moorings and crashed 60 feet to the ground that killed four ironworkers and injured four others.1 2 4 It was found that shortcuts were undertaken in anchoring the crane’s rear legs during the procedure of extending it for repositioning.

A concrete quality problem was discovered shortly after that required Fru-Con to remove and replace 184 cubic yards of the pylon that had no effect on the project’s schedule.1 ODOT also discovered that the plastic coating on many stay-cable strands was cracked, which comprised their longevity but not their strength, leading to most coatings being replaced.

To resume construction, Fru-Con modified the lone intact truss without the self-contained repositioning system.1 The company then sourced two other trusses; one was similar to that which had collapsed while the other was an underslung truss that supported spans from below during assembly.

On October 23, a positioning leg fell from the other truss as it was being moved into place.1 The incident, which injured no workers, was blamed on a miswired control switch. Work on the main span was stopped for eight months while the contractor revised its construction plan and to procure new equipment.

The last of the 3,045 concrete segments for the new bridge was poured on April 1, 2005, shortly after 9:15 a.m.6 On October 17, the main tower was “topped off” that included a small ceremony.9 The topping off included the lifting of a 13½ feet tall inverted concrete “V” that was lifted 400 feet by crane to the top of the pylon. Another milestone was achieved on July 13, 2006, when the first sheathing for the stay cables was erected.7 The stainless steel sheathing, which took 15 minutes to install, was the first step in constructing 20 sets of stable cables. The threading of 119 strands of cables for the sheathing was completed the following day.

Interstate 280 was closed between the Greenbelt Parkway and Summit Street from October 18, 2005 until November 2006 while the North Toledo approach viaduct was constructed over the existing highway.1 9 The interstate was not scheduled to be closed but incidents with the cranes led the plan to be scuttled. The delays were so great that ODOT agreed to waive a $20,000-per-daylate completion penalty until March 2, 2007. The state had been docking Fru-Con $10,000 per day since May 28, 2006 for the continued closing of Interstate 280, a penalty that exceeded $1.7 million by the time the freeway reopened.

The final two precast bridge segments were installed on December 20, 2006, and the closure pour was conducted on February 16, 2007.1 10 12 The pour, which joined the main span over the Maumee with the North Toledo viaduct approach, was conducted on the crane collapse’s third year anniversary.

Another construction incident occurred on April 19 when a work platform attached to the bridge’s side detached and fell 82 feet to the ground, killing a carpenter who was working on the platform.1 2 4 Fru-Con was fined $405,000 by OSHA for violations associated with the collapses, and the contractor paid out $11.25 million in settlements with the affected families.1 2


Dedication

A dedication ceremony was held on June 23, 2007 at 10:30 a.m., which was followed by a four-mile road race and walk at noon and a motorized parade led by veterans’ groups that crossed the northbound lanes at 12:30 p.m.4 5 Most of the bridge was opened to automobile traffic on Sunday. Two of its three lanes in each direction were opened initially, with the remainder were opened later in the year after the defective stay-cable strands were replaced.

Construction of a memorial for the five workers who died during erection of the Skyway began in October 2010 after a design was finalized in early 2006.2 The centerpiece involved the fabrication of a kinetic sculpture atop four pillars with two 24 feet arms that spin in the wind in a small plaza in Tribue Park.

The Skyway project was completed for $237 million 4 and involved a number of firsts and records. The bridge included the world’s thickest stay cables at 70% over what was previously used in the United States,12 the first use of stainless steel cable sheathing and the first pylon with 176 internally lit, inlaid glass panels that feature 13,824 light-emitting diodes in 384 fixtures.1 11 12 The lights are expected to last 22 years before needing replacement, and the stay cables have a lifespan of 100 years.8 The cradle system to house the cables, which allowed each strand to be replaced individually and act independently, was honored with the Pankow Award from the Civil Engineering Forum for Innovation and the NOVA Award from the Construction Innovation Forum.11 Over 2.2 million man-hours were required for the project.10

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