Surf City Bridge Replacement
Surf City, N.C.
Award of Merit
Contractor: Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc.
Owner: North Carolina Dept. of Transportation
Lead Design Firm: RS&H - Roadway
Structural Engineer: Parsons Brinckerhoff (now WSP)
Civil Engineer: STV
Precast Supplier: Coastal Precast Systems
Few doubted the need to replace the 70-year-old, low-level steel truss swing bridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway. Unexpected mechanical breakdowns were occurring more frequently, as was traffic congestion resulting from the bridge’s regularly scheduled hourly openings for boat traffic.
Non-scheduled openings for commercial vessels compounded residents’ frustration and further compromised access for emergency vehicles on the barrier island’s sole highway connection to the mainland.
A new 3,800-ft-long, 29-span high-level bridge promised to rectify these issues. But the Balfour Beatty-led project team encountered challenges literally from the outset, with unforeseen permitting issues delaying the start of construction by two months.
Once work started in November 2016, the project team had to carefully navigate environmentally sensitive areas by building temporary access trestles across wetlands areas.
Summer, typically a prime season for construction, presented its own scheduling issues. Work on the bridge had to be carefully sequenced to minimize disruption to the island’s tourism-based economy, while restrictions designed to safeguard marine life banned any activity that would disturb the river bottom from April 1 to Sept. 30.
Protecting the environment and the community complemented Balfour Beatty’s commitment to worker safety. Because the project’s close proximity to the ocean offered little respite from summertime temperatures, a heat-stress program provided training and awareness about working in high-heat conditions.
Mandatory breaks throughout the shift combined with shade tents and fans in work areas helped workers cool down, rehydrate and remain alert. As a result, the project recorded no heat-stress injuries or illnesses.
Preplanning and hazard identification also contributed to preventing incidents. For example, the staging yard for assembling the drilled piers’ steel cages was located away from active work areas to limit worker exposure to the fall zone where cranes were operating.
Other safety program elements that impressed this year’s Best Projects safety judges included a See Something, Say Something program that empowered team members to halt work when they suspected a safety issue. The safety program also included daily stretch-and-flex sessions and extensive training in specific activities from advanced rigging to excavation and trenching.
North Carolina’s Dept. of Labor recognized the success of Balfour Beatty’s proactive and innovative efforts by designating the Surf City Bridge as a Building Star site, the agency’s highest honor for safety excellence.
A safer workplace also proved more productive. The Balfour Beatty team overcame the challenges and restrictions to open the structure 300 days ahead of schedule. Along with improving traffic flow for the community, the new bridge provides a 10-ft-wide multi-use path that can be converted into a vehicle lane in the event of an evacuation.