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Sandy River Project Photos on Flickr​

The Sandy River Bridge project sits in a sandy flood plain at the western gateway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. See below for links to photo sets on Flickr showing various construction tactics, activities and challenges. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it takes to build two bridges over a waterway popular with both wildlife and recreational users – all while maintaining four lanes of freeway traffic.​



Steel cables strengthen bridge beams




Bundles of steel cables are often inserted longitudinally through concrete bridge beams and tightened to add strength. Here, an operator feeds 26-strand steel cables from the spool at left through tubes to workers below the deck of the new eastbound bridge.
The spool operator is in constant radio contact with a coworker below who feeds the cable into ducts that run the length of the beam.
The ducts running through the concrete beam are visible on the end face next to the workers in this photo. Once the cables are passed through each duct, they are attached at either end of the bridge beam and tightened to provide greater support to bridge loads. ​ After the steel cables are tensioned to the required strength and trimmed to the desired length, the ducts are filled with grout and capped to protect the cables from corrosion. ​


Local officials get behind-scenes tour of I-84 Sandy River Bridge construction.


In April, we invited officials from neighboring jurisdictions and agencies to visit the Sandy River Bridge project for a group tour. The group attended a safety training session before a behind-the-scenes look at the construction work. Representatives of the city of Troutdale, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the United States Forest Service saw the project’s gantry crane transporting and setting girders up to 167 feet long over the Sandy River. They also observed contractor crews working on the bridge deck at the east end of the new eastbound bridge.
Kevin Price of Oregon State Parks asks a question of Aaron Standeford (right), a project engineer from ODOT contractor Hamilton Construction. Price and other local officials inspected the southern portion of a new bicycle-pedestrian tunnel being built under Interstate 84 near the east bank of the Sandy River. Like other surfaces on the new structures, the entrance to the tunnel features design elements that echo historic bridges of the Columbia River Gorge.


Gantry crane begins setting beams
In our last update we showed you photos of the work being done to prepare the girders for installation onto awaiting piers.  The girders are set from a yellow crane that operates from above the new bridge instead of from an adjacent work bridge.   The yellow gantry cranes have been hard at work setting the girders. Crews can operate the crane from the control platform on the south side of the crane at the white box. (See arrow.) The tracks that guide the crane out across the river extend for 840 feet and are exactly 90 feet apart.
Prime contractor Hamilton Construction’s $1.2-million specialized twin gantry cranes, constructed on-site for the project, can hook, lift and place steel beams up to 167 feet long and weighing up to 192,000 pounds, almost as much as the cranes’ combined weight of 250,000 pounds.   Now that the beams on the east side of the bridge are set, the crews are preparing to build the deck. These long, green bars are epoxy-coated steel deck reinforcements. The new bridge decks will have two layers of reinforcement; both layers are grids laid out at 6-inch intervals. The bottom layer is supported by small concrete blocks. The top layer is elevated over the bottom layer with U-shaped molded steel spacers, also epoxy-coated for durability.

Preparing the girders

The massive steel girders that support the bridge are so long that they can’t be transported in one piece. They were manufactured off-site and then spliced together on-site before they were installed.  Here, crews add tension-controlled bolts and heavy steel plates to provide support for the splice between girder sections.   The contractor splices two sections of a steel girder together to form a longer span between sets of bridge piers. This spliced girder will start the first span, from the east end of the eastbound bridge heading west, over the river. Note the slightly arched end of the girder in the foreground. It will be attached to an arched girder, as shown in the next photo.
Crews prepare an arched girder that rests on one of the three bridge piers in the river. The longer spliced girders, to the left, are attached at the ends of each arched section to complete the bridge’s march across the Sandy River.    

Compacting the embankment
The contractor is preparing for the roadway at the east end of the new eastbound bridge to be reopened this fall. The contractor places and compacts fill to begin rebuilding the abutment that will support the roadway.   A worker using a vibratory plate compactor reaches places the larger roller can’t get to and helps create a stable surface.
Next, additional layers of fill are compacted using this heavy compactor roller.   The crew places a final layer of fill behind the end bent.  Next, the crew will be preparing the gantry crane to set beams.

January's rain
Last week’s rain raised the Sandy River to 24 feet where it flows under the I-84 bridges. That’s 5 feet lower than what the January 2011’s MLK weekend weather event brought.   Logs and debris collected at the piers on the west side of the channel. Fortunately there are fewer piers in the water this year since we removed the temporary work bridge.
Though debris began to collect at the piers and sand bar, it was manageable thanks to the debris removal by the contractor prior to the storm.   A small amount of debris gathers at the detour bridge on the right; the westbound bridge is on the left. Throughout the rainy season, work crews will continue to proactively remove debris from the channel.

What a difference a year can make

After the heavy rains the last weekend in December 2011, the water level at the Sandy River Bridges was around 24 feet. Debris piled up at the base of the piers.   But that’s nothing compared to the amount of debris that collected at the base of the temporary work bridge and old eastbound bridge piers after the storm during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend of January 2011. That storm raised the water level to 29 feet and brought enough debris downstream to create a massive jam at the base of the I-84 Sandy River Bridges.
After last year’s MLK weekend storm, an excavator (pictured above) placed on the temporary work bridge helped remove debris. Crews also used a crane and clam bucket from the old eastbound bridge, while a yarder and grapple worked on the upstream side of the work zone. About 110 truckloads of debris were removed from the river; nearly 40 of those were used to restore fish habitat elsewhere in the Sandy River Basin.   Debris floating downstream due to the December 2011 storm was met by fewer piers at the bridges. Here, a crane lifts a log out of the river. With fewer piers in the water for the remainder of the project, ODOT is optimistic that debris won’t pile up as it did over the MLK 2011 weekend, and that removing it will be as smooth as you see in this photo.

The pedestrain tunnel

The Sandy River Bridge project includes a pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 84, parallel to Jordan Road. In August the contractor installed rebar for the tunnel walls.
  Once the rebar was in place, the team poured concrete to produce the tunnel walls. A month later, the contractor removed the forms to expose the concrete. 
By mid-December, the tunnel is almost complete. The walls are formed, the entrance is finished and the retaining wall on either side of the entrance is complete. For now, the tunnel extends under the eastbound I-84 bridge only; work on the other half will begin while the westbound I-84 bridge is being repaired.   The exterior walls will receive an aesthetic treatment to match that of the Jordan Road Bridge within the next couple months.

Top-down beam setting

To reduce the risk of localized flooding, ODOT will use temporary towers and a gantry crane to lift and position the bridge beams, eliminating the need for a work bridge in the river during the winter. Steel beams are lifted from the staging area on the west bank.
  Beginning at the east end of the bridge, the steel beams are lowered into place.
A steel T-section is lifted from the staging area on the west bank and slid into place.   The gantry crane sets T-sections into place, where they are attached to the steel beams.

Riprap and bridge columns
In September, work crews placed riprap on the existing west bank of the Sandy River to protect it from deteriorating during future runoff and high water levels. Each stone weighs up to 700 pounds. Piles are installed for the west end abutment of the new eastbound Sandy River Bridge.
A coffer dam in the Sandy River keeps the work area dry. Rebar inside the forms provides the structural stability of the bridge column.   Staining for an aesthetic treatment is tested on a completed concrete column support for the new eastbound bridge to ensure it meets the I-84 Corridor Strategy that guides the design of transportation projects in the Columbia River Gorge.
Here is a close-up of the aesthetic treatment on a concrete column. Eventually, this treatment will be applied to all the columns.
Falsework in an arch shape supports the concrete forms for crossbeams. It will soon be removed to reveal an arch-shaped opening below.
The cross beam stretches across the width of the new eastbound bridge. To help strengthen the concrete cross beams, steel cables will be placed inside these ducts, then tensioned to the required strength. The ducts are then filled with mortar to protect the cables from corrosion.

Osterberg cell testing
Subcontractor technicians Bob Simpson (left) and Jon Sinreich of Loadtest Inc. review the setup of their Osterberg Cell testing equipment. O-cell testing measures how well drilled shafts and other bored piles will hold up under heavy loads.  O-cell testing, which gets its name from the inventor Dr. Jorj O. Osterberg, uses an array of hydraulic pumps, strain gauges and testing software connected to an O-cell. The cell is inserted in a drilled shaft, tied to the rebar cage that holds the sides of the shaft open so concrete can be poured in.
Construction inspectors Louis Bolinger (left) and Brandon Thompson (right) of Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners discuss O-cell test procedures with ODOT geotechnical engineer Tim Pfeiffer.  Transducers over the top of the drilled shaft at right carry testing data to an attached PC for evaluation. Transducers convert pressure into an analog electrical signal.
Technician Bob Simpson runs tests to evaluate the strength of the drilled shafts built to support the new eastbound freeway bridge over the Sandy River, some of which run more than 150 feet deep into the sand and gravel that makes up the terrain in and around the river. Drilled shaft testing is far from being the only activity on the site. For example, a crew from subcontractor Malcolm Drilling Co. works on a tip-grouting procedure that strengthens the drilled shafts at their base. Project inspector Brandon Thompson (left) checks gauge readings.

Unexpected challenges

During the past few weeks, the project team has encountered several unexpected challenges. Here, a semitrailer becomes stuck under the Interstate 84 overpass bridge at Jordan Road Aug. 25. Clearance is restricted to 13 feet, 6 inches. This is the fifth time this year that a semitrailer has hit the overpass.
The driver missed the warning signs on the freeway and ramp about height restrictions on Jordan Road under I-84. 
The second challenge came when the casing around the drilled shaft became stuck. The 160-foot casing is used to form the concrete support column for the eastbound bridge.
Crews attempt to dislodge the casing using various large pieces of equipment.  In the end, one section of the casing remains in the hole; divers extracted the rest of the casing.

Old wagon wheel discovered

A wagon wheel was found underwater, about 12 feet below the normal riverbed elevation, during excavation earlier this month. It is estimated to be around 150 years old. ODOT notified the State Historic Preservation Office of the find, which is required whenever cultural resources or artifacts are found during construction to ensure that they aren’t destroyed.
The remains of the old wagon road, east of Shell Rock in the Gorge. The I-84 Sandy River Bridge site is just downstream of the original location of the ferry for the "Sandy River-The Dalles" Wagon Road which was chartered by Oregon’s Territorial Legislature. 
The wagon wheel was discovered by ODOT's contractor while excavating at the east end of the bridge.

Construction activities

The project’s drilling superintendent discusses stone column placement with an equipment operator on the west bank of the Sandy River. Stone columns are ground improvements that stabilize the terrain.
Crews poured a new deck on the eastbound freeway bridge being repaired over Jordan Road.
Contractors excavate the drilled shaft on the north side of the new eastbound Sandy River Bridge. When the bridge is complete, these shafts will form the foundation of the bridge.
A rebar cage is installed for the drilled shaft on the north side of the new eastbound Sandy River Bridge. The added steel makes the concrete piers strong enough to support the bridge and carry large freight loads that travel on Interstate 84.
With the sheet pile in place, crews drive pile inside the coffer dam. This pile has already reached 100 feet depth, so a worker welds a second pile to the top of the first. 
Piles are staged and ready to be put to work.