DRIVEN Big diesel rig installs 24-in. square concrete piles.

A contractor driving about 1,000 foundation piles for Washington, D.C.’s new Woodrow Wilson Bridge project has convinced the Virginia Dept. of Transportation to change its equipment requirements, based on a new diesel-hammer design.

Equipment manufacturers have struggled to maintain a positive image for diesels. For hammers in particular, it has been hard because they typically are noisy and have dirty emissions. However, a Canadian producer says its new line of $250,000 hammers, rated at kinetic impacts of 141,680 ft-lb, are clean-burning and fully programmable.

Patrick Bermingham, president of Hamilton, Ontario-based Berminghammer Foundation Equipment, believes his firm has broadened the appeal of diesel hammers by manipulating fuel injection and adding computerized impact monitors.

Still, it was a tough sell in Virginia. "The original spec required hydraulic hammers," says Nick Nicholson, VDOT project manager. "Our research...indicated that with the adjustments and ability of hydraulic hammers, we could address noise concerns as well as emissions and oil spills."

But the agency approved two vegetable-oil-fueled diesels for R.R. Dawson Bridge Co., Lexington, Ky., on a $39-million contract to rebuild the area’s Route 1/Interstate-95 interchange. It includes 11 new bridges on 24-in. square concrete piles up to 75 ft long. The hammers are clean and average 105 decibels of noise compared to the typical hydraulic’s 110-112 db, says Nicholson.The work is slated to finish in June 2005.

(Photos courtesy of Berminghammer Foundation Equipment)