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 Author: crow
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:50 pm 
"Why aren't you going to jack pillar 4?" "Big problems if we jack it, I won't talk about it" said the job supervisor for IHC on the day we met, I'll call him Bubba 'cause he never told me his name. When we first met on his 2nd day on the job he was cagey, reluctant to talk so I said "look, I'm just following through since I've written many articles through the demolition and rebuilding." Thoughtful pause, then, "are you the guy who wrote the article about when the pillar fell and almost killed a worker?" I said yes, he said wait and after rummaging in his cab he produced the engineer's drawing of the bridge and the work to be done and proceeded to explain everything in great detail except why he wouldn't be jacking pillar 4, that's the most northern pillar and it's included in the work order.

Each day I returned as they went from pillar 1 to pillar 2 to pillar 3, never once did they touch pillar 4 nor the abutments. Each pillar has has the end of 20 girders each sitting on their own steel plate for a total of 20 plates, some of which may have been put in backwards. Each abutment (where the bridge meets the existing road on the north and south ends each have only 10 girders and 10 plates but were not worked on nor, as far as I know, may not be in the work order. These numbers are important.

Friday I again arrived and approached Bubba and the DOT inspector as they sat and watched the jacks being removed from pillar 3, in the photo above, they both piped up and said "out of 100 only four plates needed fixing" and we're done, ok lets count. Each pillar has 20 plates, they were at pillar 3 for a count of 60 plates, if they had done pillar 4 that would have been 80 plates, if they had done the abutments that would be 100 plates. But it is unclear if the abutments were included in the work order but would have required the crew to climb the "rip-rap" covering the hillsides climbed done from above, neither of which happened.

Monday, July 31 I returned to observe the crew working on anther project included in the work order, closing a gap in an improperly placed "Wing Wall" allowing water to infiltrate under the bridge where it didn't belong. Again I ask Bubba why pillar 4 was not worked o and he said "because the fucking, cry baby tree huggers would raise hell if we crossed the creek" I must say this was typical for Bubba as often he went on rants about the idiots who believed in global warming.

As I sat down Tuesday morning to write this article, after much thought about what to write I decided I would get some explanation from NM DOT district chief Brian Torres. On my 2nd call he answered and I ask him why pillar 4 had not been done and he said he was told that all 100 plates had been looked at and fixed, I said no and recounted this story, he ask me if I had been there each day and I said yes at which time he said he would have to investigate and get back with me; if and when Torres gets back with me I will update the saga.

The day before wok began, I had met the DOT inspector, the one who didn't know why he was there, so I explained the situation, he, claiming to have vast knowledge of bridges thought the girders would have to be lifted 4 to 6 inches but Bubba later assured me that the girders would be lifted 3/16th of an inch.

A 50 Ton hydraulic jack used in the lifting of the girders. The Lift Weight" of the end of each girder was calculated to be 57 Tons so each girder got 2 jacks making for the placement of 40 jacks to lift all 20 girders off each pillar at the same time and the same 3/16 of an inch. In the lead photo can be seen the hydraulic hoses hanging down.

The jacks were slid into the observation slot below each girder. Before the jacks are placed the pressure plate (sometimes called a "Sole Plate" had to be un-welded from a plate that is embedded into the bottom of each girder end. After the girder is jacked the sole plates and a thick rubber mat can just be slid out. The rubber mat (3 inches thick or so) is what gets replaced on a 30 year maintenance.

Just a shot of a pillar and, below, the plates sitting on the rubber mats and ready for the girders.


A gap being filled by gluing in a thick layer of spongy rubber like a weather rubber. The gap, according to the engineer's drawing is proper but the lower concrete footer called a "Wing Wall" was to have been placed 3 inches further in so the concrete above the gap overhangs by that 3 inches so that water drips to the ground without entering the gap and flowing under the bridge. These wing walls are short footers at each corner of the bridge and are part of the abutments. The concrete structure above the gap runs the full length of the bridge and support the sidewalks and anti suicide fences.

 Author: crow
PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:36 am 
It has been ask as to why these plates are important, what they do and how they can be backwards. The bridge is not level from end to end, it heads down hill from the south to the north, from Highway 90 cresting the east and north slope of Chihuahua Hill heading to the valley floor at Hudson St downtown Silver City. The surface of the pillars are level so that when the end of a girder is placed on the pillar it does not sit flat on the surface of the pillar so a wedge (called a Pressure Plate or a Sole Plate by some) is placed between the girder and the pillar surface. Its about spreading the 57 ton (114,00 pounds) weight over the greatest surface area possible. So at least some of the wedges were placed in backwards which did nothing to spread the weight out and may have made matters worse.

Think about the human foot, as we stand normally our, lets say 150 pound weight is spread across the bottom surface of the foot but if we stand on our tippy-toes that 150 lbs is now confined to a smaller area increasing stress and we fatigue sooner, if we were to Ballet dance and go to the tips of our toes those stresses again increase and those dancers experience extreme pain, often deformed foot bones and linear fractures in the worst cases all with the same given weight.

Its been 24 hours since my call to the DOT and no word back yet as to why pillar 4 (and maybe the abutments) were not jacked and checked for improperly placed wedges.

 Author: n2ic
PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:07 am 
John, you have a new career ! Bridge inspector !

After this one is done, I hope you will keep an eye out on the bridge that FMI is building across Highway 152, near Hanover. It will be used by haul trucks to move ore from Hanover Mountain to the Chino mine. While the bridge is under construction, traffic will be diverted north of the current road. The diversion road earth work has already begun.

 Author: rearnheart
PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:11 am 
Dude...you should work for the NYTimes.

 Author: crow
PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:16 pm 
Thanks guys, when I started to cover this story in 2012 (DOT Public Meetings) little did I know it would be a 5 year project and it seems like it still isn't over. Do another bridge? I don;t know, I may look into it from time to time but cost and travel is a big issue and its remoteness will keep me out of circulation, perhaps someone closer will step up as a watchdog. Cost, support from readership only pays for internet (expensive) and a cheap basic cell phone service so my work is a donation to the community as it is and I live on way less than a fixed income so I have to choose my priorities. But, hey, I wouldn't trade the experience of the last 12 or 13 years for anything.

 Author: James
PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:25 pm 
since no work was done on pillar 4, doesn't that mean the girders between pillars 3 and 4 are twisted, causing road degradation and early repairs. who pays for that. no word from mr. torres yet?

 Author: crow
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:08 pm 
Well James, last Monday I talked with Brian Torres he had changed his story and no longed claim all work had been done, instead he said he was waiting for an explanation from ICH as to why pillar 4 had not been done and just what damage would be done if those 20 girders had been jacked up. Last Friday I was unable to contact Brian but will continue the investigation tomorrow, Monday.

This leads to a number questions: If it is true that those girders cannot be lifted without damaging the structure then when it comes time to do maintenance work to prolong the life of the bridge it still won't be possible. Indeed improperly placed steel wedge plates may shorten the life due to damage to the girders but nobody wants to say but I suppose it could be sooner than later with the multi ton copper trucks adding a real stress. Or perhaps it was just a scam to avoid fines that would begin on August 1 because as it was they finished July 31 without doing the work.

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