It was a perfect Saturday night for a bridge raising – velvety black sky, warm spring temperatures, and no wind. Bright orange and white barrels, backed up by the flashing blue lights of police vehicles, punctuated the area now occupied by a 150 ton crane in the middle of Arlington Boulevard/Route 50, cradling the 141-foot-long steel-truss in a double sling.
The crane’s boom stretched high into the night sky, as hard-hatted workers and “iron” men connected the two sections of the bridge together with dozens of 3-inch bolts. Some workers were tethered by safety lines to the superstructure of the bridge; still others worked on their backs in the two feet or so of clearance space from the roadbed. Their careful hand-tightening of each bolt was followed by further tightening with impact wrenches and, finally, the unmistakable sound of a calibrated torque wrench ensuring that those bolts weren’t going anywhere!
A little before 3 a.m., the crane operator climbed into his cab, workers took their positions with heavy guide ropes at each end, and the crane effortlessly lifted the span straight up, and then pivoted it into place, easing it onto the concrete platform of the south stairwell on the Seven Corners side. As the other end of the bridge was eased toward the north stairwell on the Willston side, the perfectly executed action came to a premature halt. The bridge didn’t fit! The roofline of the north stairwell projected out a few inches, blocking the clearance needed for an easy maneuver. After hurried consultation among the engineers on site, a foreman cranked up the carbide steel circular saw and, in a glorious shower of sparks against the night sky, removed a section of bridge rafter from the south section. The idea was to get enough clearance on the south end to allow the north end “wiggle room” and ease into position. Mind you, all this was going on while the span was still held aloft by the crane’s double sling.
The desired wiggle room wasn’t achieved, so the foreman crossed back over Route 50 and up the stairway with the carbide saw, cranked it up again, and performed similar surgery, with accompanying sparks, on the north section. The crane operator gingerly moved the boom toward the north side and slipped the span onto the platform, to the applause of the four onlookers who were still awake! Quickly, the anchor bolts were installed, the sling was released, and trucks moved into position to haul away equipment so that Route 50 could be re-opened to traffic by 5 a.m.
Work remains before the overpass can be opened to pedestrian traffic. First of all, the bridge rafters that were removed must be welded back into position. Then, concrete decking will be installed, along with lighting and safety fencing on the sides and the top of the span. The final touches are expected to be completed by mid-May, and the pedestrian overpass will provide safe linkage between the residential community and the shopping center, where a future transit center will be located.
The Route 50 Pedestrian Bridge Overpass project was initiated to improve the safety of pedestrians crossing Arlington Boulevard in the Seven Corners area, where several people have been struck and killed in recent years. The project is funded with federal safety and Open Container funds, with a state match, and administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the state agency that operates and maintains roads in Fairfax County.
The 4th Annual Falls Church High School Jaguar 5K Run/Walk and One Mile Fun Run will begin at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday, April 25, at the school, 7521 Jaguar Trail in Falls Church. Proceeds support the school’s athletic program.
The Fun Run is planned for children 13 and under; the cost is $10, and all participants will receive a T-shirt and certificate. The 5K registration cost is $25, and includes a T-shirt. Log-on to www.jaguar5K.com for more information and on-line registration.