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Girders giving Rumsey bridge a new look

August 13, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Steel girders weighing as much as 126,000 pounds will be carefully lifted and mounted as construction on the new James Rumsey Bridge enters phase two.

Julie Hott, a project engineer with the West Virginia Division of Highways, watched from the edge of the old bridge that connects Md. 34 in Sharpsburg to W.Va. 480 in Shepherdstown as workers spent more than an hour Wednesday morning draping long steel chains around a 63-ton girder before lifting it from the back of a large truck.

"They're attaching lifting lugs to set the girder on the ground and get it ready to set up in place tomorrow," Hott said.

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Hott said crews will need to install 44 girders spanning the length of the 1,085-foot bridge.

Steel girders are large wide metal beams installed vertically atop bridge supports called piers. Once in place, the girders are connected using large steel bolts to form the length of the bridge.

"There are 1,100 bolts used to splice the two girders," she said.

When all the girders are installed, a reinforced steel and concrete deck will be placed on top. This combination will form the bridge's road surface and an adjacent walkway, according to West Virginia Division of Highways civil engineer Bill Shanklin.

The new bridge is being built next to the existing James Rumsey Bridge, which was built in 1939. Work on the new bridge started in June 2003, and barring any setbacks, the new bridge is scheduled to open in July 2005, Hott said.

In the meantime, motorists continue to use the old bridge which crosses the Potomac River between West Virginia and Maryland.

"Once all the girders are in place we'll start forming the deck, which is the roadway surface where people will drive," Hott said.

Some new construction methods are being used to extend the life of the new bridge.

A latex coating will cover the bridge deck and will help prevent ice-melting chemicals from penetrating the concrete and hastening deterioration of the bridge's foundation, Shanklin said.

"These new techniques will save taxpayers dollars over the life cycle of the structure," he said.

The bridge cost approximately $17 million and is being paid for by West Virginia and Maryland in addition to federal funds, Shanklin said.

Once the new bridge is complete, the old bridge will be demolished, Hott said.

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