Downtown Crossing: Crews constructing piers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Downtown Crossing: Crews constructing piers for new downtown bridge

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Walsh Construction crews are using cranes to lift steel casings, which are 31 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, into place -- a process known as “spinning the cans.” Walsh Construction crews are using cranes to lift steel casings, which are 31 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, into place -- a process known as “spinning the cans.”
The cans (or casings) are made of 1" thick steel plate. The cans (or casings) are made of 1" thick steel plate.
The cans are spun into underlying bedrock (limestone) and extend above the river. The cans are spun into underlying bedrock (limestone) and extend above the river.
Footings, formed by a "tub," are poured around the shafts at water level; they connect towers and provide bracing for vessel impacts. The tub is sealed and dewatered and rebar and concrete are placed inside. Footings, formed by a "tub," are poured around the shafts at water level; they connect towers and provide bracing for vessel impacts. The tub is sealed and dewatered and rebar and concrete are placed inside.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The process of building the foundations for the new bridge for the Downtown Crossing has reached a critical point.

Walsh Construction crews are using cranes to lift steel casings, which are 31 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, into place -- a process known as "spinning the cans."  The casings will be part of the piers that will set the foundation everything to come.

It will take nine piers -- four on land and five in the water -- to support the span. Three piers will include tower supports, comprised of four drilled shafts that are 31 feet long and 12-feet in diameter, a waterline footing, and two tower legs.

Many people like Katherine Bickel can't miss the cranes and construction equipment lining the waterfront downtown.  They welcome her daily walk over the Big Four Bridge with her daughter Ava. "It's just very interesting to follow what's going on," she says.

Crews spent Thursday floating the casings to the Indiana side of the Ohio River. Each casing will hold a steel rebar cage and concrete that will be drilled into the river. It will take about six weeks to build each pier.

Walsh Construction, the builder of the new Downtown Crossing, explains the foundation will consist of nine piers -- four on land, five in the water, each one taking six weeks to build.

Project Manager Joel Halterman explains, "The foundations are made up of drill shafts of steel casings that are drilled down to the top of the bedrock about a foot into the rock, and inside the casing will be the concrete and rebar that's poured."

He continued, "Everything is contained inside of those casings, the excavation, the drilling, the concrete all held inside the casings and the casings will stay permanently in the river."

For the downtown cable portion of the project, the foundations are the key element to get us started and getting the project going," said Halterman. "So, yeah, a very important part of the project."

The bridge is scheduled to be complete in 2016.  "I think it will be a lot less congestion," Katherine Bickel said.  By then, Ava will probably be walking by her mother's side.

More information about the materials and process:

  • The cans (or casings) are made of 1" thick steel plate and are 12-foot in diameter.
  • The cans are spun into underlying bedrock (limestone) and extend above the river
  • Soil is excavated from inside the steel casing
  • A "rock socket" is drilled into the bedrock (around 30 feet deep)
  • The socket is cleaned and inspected
  • A rebar cage is installed
  • Concrete is poured through a pipe that goes to the bottom of the shaft
  • Rising concrete from the bottom displaces the water
  • The pipe is slowly pulled out as the concrete is placed, with the can (steel casing) remaining in place 
  • Waterline Footings
    • Footings are poured around the shafts at water level
    • The footings connect towers and provide bracing for vessel impacts
    • The footings are formed by a "tub" made by a precast concrete slab and formwork
    • The tub is sealed and dewatered and rebar and concrete are placed inside

The Downtown Crossing is a $1.2 billion project slated for completion in 2016. When the entire bridges project is complete -- including the new downtown bridge, the east end bridge and the revamping of Spaghetti Junction -- the new downtown bridge will carry northbound traffic on I-65. The Kennedy bridge will be for vehicles traveling southbound.

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