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cover story

Webbers Falls I-40 Bridge

From Tragedy to Triumph
A t 7:48 a.m. on May 26, 2002, tragedy
struck when a pair of errant barges
being pushed by a towboat hit the I-40
Bridge spanning the Arkansas River
near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. The
accident caused four bridge spans to
collapse into the river upon impact,
killing 14 people and paralyzing a major
cross-country corridor.
At 6 p.m. on June 12, Gilbert Central
Corp. received Notice to Proceed (NTP)
to reconstruct the collapsed portion of
the I-40 Bridge after submitting an
“A+B” bid to open the heavily-traveled
interstate 15 days ahead of the owner’s
72-day maximum time allowance.
At 10 a.m. on July 29 — just 46 days
and 16 hours after NTP and just
64 days after the tragic accident —
Top left Looking upstream, an 800-ton chunk of the I-40 Bridge’s fallen east span rests on one of two tank
Gilbert achieved substantial completion,
barges. The May 26, 2002, barge/bridge accident caused 10 vehicles to plunge 60-ft. into the Arkansas River,
10 days and 8 hours ahead of its own resulting in 14 fatalities. Top right The I-40 Bridge’s damaged west abutment. Above Looking downstream,
aggressive schedule. This enabled more demolition of the fallen east span continues. Graphic Two 1000-ton empty tank barges being pushed upstream
than 22,000 vehicles per day to resume by a towboat at 6-7 mph diverted from course, colliding with the bridge. Three two-column piers and four spans
travel on the I-40 Bridge. — a third of the 1,988.5-ft.-long bridge — were destroyed. Below left and bottom On July 29, just 46 days and Page
“On behalf of President Bush and 16 hours after Gilbert Central Corp. received Notice to Proceed, the I-40 Bridge was reopened to traffic. More 1
than 22,000 vehicles, 30% of which is trailer traffic, travel this stretch each day. Photos courtesy of ODOT
Secretary of Transportation Norman
Mineta, I salute all the people in the Webbers Falls I-40 Bridge
public and private sectors who have
worked so hard to restore this vital link over the Arkansas River
in America’s transportation system, and 126’ 125’ 126’ 201’ 330’

to do so in record time,” Mary Peters, A B C B

Federal Highway Administrator, said at
a July 29 ceremony. “Reopening this D E
I-40 Bridge in less than half of the six
months it normally would take to ath th
nt p ge pa
rebuild a job of this magnitude became Erra or mal bar
N r
reality because of the tremendous of rive
coordination of the Oklahoma A = Damaged span D = Partially damaged pier
Department of Transportation, the U.S. B = Partially fallen span E = Damaged pier
C = Completely fallen/submerged span
Department of Transportation, the
private sector and Gilbert Central, the
major contractor for the job.”

I-40 Bridge Reopening

“There has been a big load taken
from my shoulders,” Gary Ridley,
Director of the Oklahoma Department
of Transportation (ODOT), said shortly
after the I-40 Bridge reopening. “One of
four personal project goals was achieved
this morning when I drove across this
bridge for the first time since the
accident. We had every confidence that
—Continued on page 2—
Kieways July-August 2002
cover story
Gilbert Central could make things “B” portion) of 57 calendar days
happen.” (1,368 hours) — 14 days and 18 hours
And that they did. Focused on safety, (354 hours) faster than the next bidder.
quality and on-time completion, Gilbert “When we use an incentive payment, it
helped achieve in just 1,120 hours “what is forces the contractor and the state to focus
Photo courtesy of ODOT now being called the fastest on the same objective: speed is of the
Day 1 First cranes arrive on site completion of a project of this essence,” S.C. “Pete” Byers, an ODOT
magnitude in the history of retiree who led the project’s oversight,
Oklahoma and also in the history said. “Both owner and contractor are in it
of the nation,” Oklahoma for the same reasons. There is no
Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin compromise in quality. It’s a win-win
said at the reopening. situation for both parties.”
Gilbert’s high-octane efforts Offering the best combination of price
earned the Texas District a and accelerated delivery, Gilbert vowed to
$1.5 million bonus. At $144,000-a- finish the high-profile project early and
day, the early completion incentive within budget, creating a textbook
Photo courtesy of ODOT is just one-third the estimated example for fast-paced projects.
Day 4 Pier 1 reinforcing steel work $400,000 to $430,000 in additional road
user costs that taxpayers incurred each Scope of Work
day the bridge remained closed. Overall, project personnel were
“I’m a firm believer in the need of responsible for constructing a 524-ft.-long
government to be good stewards of the combination concrete girder and structural
taxpayers’ money and, unfortunately steel bridge that would tie into the
sometimes, we don’t always live up to that undamaged four-lane bridge structure.
call,” Fallin said. “But I do think you will Prior to construction, Gilbert crews
agree with me that the $1.5 million bonus removed the remaining portions of
that is earned by the Gilbert Central existing Piers 2 and 3, the existing west-
Photo courtesy of ODOT Corporation for the early end abutment backwall and wings, and the
Day 7 Crews prepare access area completion of this project is one remaining structural steel still attached to
Page of the best uses of Oklahoman the crumpled bridge’s east splice location.
2 taxpayer money that we’ve seen in The major scope of work included
quite a while.” construction of Piers 1, 2 and 3, as well as
three new concrete spans: Spans 1, 2 and 3
A+B Contract — each approximately 130-ft.-long — and
To expedite the emergency one new steel main span, Span 4, which
reconstruction process, ODOT was 204-ft.-long and tied into the bridge’s
employed the A+B contracting existing east end. In addition, an
method. In evaluating an A+B abutment, a 30-ft.-long concrete approach
Photo courtesy of ODOT bid, the owner considers both the slab and a 40-ft.-long roadway section
Day 11 Pier 1 reinforcing steel price and the number of days — or in this were rebuilt on the bridge’s west end.
case, the number of hours — proposed to Major project quantities included
build a project. By offering an incentive PROJECT
for early completion, the A+B method Webbers Falls I-40 Bridge
encourages the contractor to get the job
done at the earliest practical date. LOCATION
Three miles southeast of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma
“We employed the A+B method
because we knew early on that the project PURPOSE
To replace a collapsed portion of the Interstate 40
had to be done quickly,” John Fuller,
Bridge spanning the Arkansas River
ODOT Assistant Director of Operations,
said. “It puts a monetary OWNER
Day 16 Drilled shaft work at Pier 2 incentive out there for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation
For the I-40 project, ODOT Gilbert Central Corp.
allowed a maximum of
72 calendar days (1,728 hours) DISTRICTS
Led by Texas, with participation from Denver,
and offered an early completion Kiewit Engineering, Kiewit Industrial, Kiewit Offshore
bonus of $6,000 per hour. Gilbert Services and Pacific Structures
was awarded the contract based
on a price (the “A” portion) of CONTRACT AMOUNT
$10.9 million
$10,903,262 and a schedule (or

Day 17 Pier 1 cap formwork Kieways July-August 2002

cover story
60,000 tons of rock fill for temporary could improve upon an already aggressive
river access; more than 20,000 sq. ft. of goal, beating their own schedule by an
substructure formwork; over 420,000 lb. impressive 248 hours — more than 18% of
of structural steel; more than 1,000 cu. yd. their original bid schedule.
of concrete deck; 1,500 cu. yd. of concrete “We brainstormed and asked, ‘what can
substructure; approximately 600 ft. of we do to achieve the best
9-ft.-dia. drilled shafts, 4,000 linear-ft. of schedule?’ That’s just the Kiewit Pier 3 drilled shaft work Day 20
concrete beams, and more than $3 million blood in us,” Poe said. “We take
of permanent materials. so much pride in beating the
Schedule, Schedule and Schedule “The efforts that went into the
Reopening one of the country’s most daily scheduling were incredible,”
heavily traveled corridors in record time Byers said. “Gilbert Central was
presented numerous challenges. For all thoroughly familiar with the
parties involved, “raising the bridge” on schedule and everyone in the
time — and more importantly, ahead of group had a good sense of the set
schedule — meant adhering to a closely objectives.”
monitored and detailed construction But meeting, let alone beating, the Crashwall work at Pier 2 Day 22
schedule. Every minute proved critical as intense schedule depended on many
crews worked around the clock in 12-hr. factors meshing together. Gilbert’s
shifts to unclog this major east/west seasoned project management team; quick
artery. mobilization efforts; extensive resources
“It all comes down to the schedule. including people, equipment and
Right up front, dates were established and materials; and the dedication to complete
monitored,” Jim Poe, Gilbert assistant one of the fastest reconstruction projects
project manager, said. “Everyone’s goal of its kind — all proved to be ingredients
was to meet or beat the schedule.” for success. Good owner relations,
“We geared up the job to succeed,” Stan communication and cooperation Photo courtesy of ODOT

Mediate, Gilbert On-Site Area Manager, were also key. Progress at Piers 2 and 3 Day 24
said. “We did a good job of covering the “Gilbert personnel were great Page
‘what-ifs’ and adjusting our plans on the responders. They did their work. 3
fly to avoid losing time on the schedule.” They had a passion to complete it
On July 29, Gilbert crews proved they and it was their mission in life,”
Ridley said.
Facts and Figures “This project was a great
confidence builder and morale
I-40 Bridge over the Arkansas River booster for our district,” Keith
■ Built in 1967 with an expected life span of Sasich, Texas District Manager,
75 years said. “We all felt the pressures of
■ Inspected by ODOT in June 2001; passed the nation watching our progress on this Pier 2 column work Day 25
with an above-average score high-profile rebuilding effort, yet we
always knew we were up to the challenge.”
Barge/Bridge Accident Working side-by-side, 24-hours-a-day
■ Impact was equivalent to 60 cars, each on a fast-track project with this much
weighing 2,000-lb., hitting simultaneously at visibility, ODOT and Gilbert knew that
60 mph teamwork would prove to be the most
■ 14 fatalities important factor of all.
■ 4 motorists and all seven barge crewmen “Our intent was to do the entire process
survived in a Partnering environment,” Byers said.
“We all laid our cards on the Photo courtesy of ODOT

McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River table and expressed how we felt Hanging beams at Span 1 Day 27
Navigation System about certain issues. It set the
■ 445-mi.-long Navigation System is crossed precedent for the project. It was
by 29 highway bridges and 10 railroad the most open type of situation
spans that I’ve ever experienced with a
■ In 2001, barges carried more than contractor on a day-to-day basis.”
4.3 million tons of cargo over the Oklahoma “ODOT’s sense of urgency was
waterway portion, a value of $1.3 billion. unparalleled,” Mediate said. “In
■ Each barge carries the equivalent of my 22 years with Kiewit, I haven’t
15 railcars, or 80 trailer loads. —Continued on page 4—
Kieways July-August 2002 Pier 3 nears completion Day 32
cover story
seen a better owner/contractor
While Gilbert vowed to construct the
collapsed portion of the bridge from the
ground up in record time, ODOT made a
Photo courtesy of ODOT pledge to be constantly available,
Day 34 Placing steel beam at Span 4 keeping a resident engineer on
duty at all times to assist in timely
“Everyone had a cell phone and
every ODOT truck had a set of
plans to refer to if there were
questions or problems,” Byers
said. “The objective was to give
Gilbert a timely response when
they needed it. On both sides,
Photo courtesy of ODOT project personnel were empowered

Day 36 Site progress looking west with the necessary authority.”

Economic Impacts
Undoubtedly, the May 26 accident
greatly impacted the state of Oklahoma
and the nation. ODOT’s cry for help did
not fall on deaf ears. Numerous public
and private entities far too numerous to
mention immediately stopped what they
Photo courtesy of ODOT
were doing to help “put the bridge back
Photo courtesy of ODOT together again.” On Day 39 — less than 10 days before the I-40 Bridge
Day 37 Setting final beam at Span 4 “The Federal Highway would reopen to traffic — crews work to achieve
Page Administration is pleased to have substantial completion of what is now being called the
4 fastest completion of a project of its type in U.S. history.
been able to provide $3 million in
emergency relief funds and accident, ODOT was pressed to
expertise and assistance from our compensate for vehicular travel
Oklahoma division office inconveniences during construction. This
throughout the rebuilding involved making daily improvements to
process,” Peters said. “Reopening the 57-mi.-long eastbound I-40 detour and
this critical east/west link in our the 6-mi.-long westbound detour.
nation’s highway system in the “We incurred between $400,000 and
remarkable time of 64 days will $430,000 in road user costs each day the
Day 38 Access area beneath bridge result in saving millions of dollars to the bridge was closed,” Ridley said. “And
state and national economy.” we’ve spent an additional $8.6 million in
“When this bridge fell, it dramatically repair costs for bridges and roadway
affected the east/west flow of goods and sections along the detour routes. That
commerce across the Arkansas River and, doesn’t count the negative impact to
of course, across our nation,” Fallin said. businesses.”
“The rapid reconstruction was crucial to With the bridge reopened to traffic
the restoring of the use of this interstate ahead of schedule, the state of Oklahoma
to over 20,000 vehicles that pass through has realized a dramatic savings in detour
this portion of I-40 every day. In addition, operating costs, not to mention the time
Photo courtesy of ODOT the service had to be preserved on and expenses saved by thousands of users.
Day 39 Site view from downstream the Arkansas River Navigation “Since day one, we’ve been out there
System when barges pass through working around the clock monitoring
with cargo loads of over 80 traffic and making emergency detour
semis.” repairs to routes that weren’t built to
In addition to overseeing the withstand the heavy repetitive truck
I-40 Bridge reconstruction, traffic. They’ve seen more trucks in one
ODOT was faced with the task of day than they used to see in six months.
keeping traffic moving around the The additional traffic has definitely
blockage. Although barge traffic accelerated the deterioration of these
resumed within days of the roadways,” Fuller said. “Now that the

Day 40 Placing rebar at Span 4 Kieways July-August 2002

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bridge is open, we can shift our focus “It was imperative that we had a good
away from the constant upkeep of the fit. If not, it would delay our structural
detour routes.” steel erection, and in turn, the whole job,”
In addition, Fuller said, “The people Sasich said.
who normally use the two-lane detour When it came time to tie the existing
routes can now travel on them with a lot structural steel girders with
more ease within a safer environment. Span 4’s new steel girders, the Metal decking at Span 4 Day 41
And we were pleased to open the I-40 team experienced “no problems.
Bridge before school started this fall.” There was no doubt in our minds
that we’d have a good fit. Our
Making it Fit approach was solid,” Sasich said.
Although Gilbert’s primary challenge
was the project’s aggressive schedule, Safety is #1
crews also faced other challenges such as The record-setting completion
uprooting personnel working on other of the I-40 Bridge has given the
jobs, mobilizing equipment from across words “in a hurry” new meaning,
the country, and securing the vast amount but no one on the team was
of materials needed to build the work. going to sacrifice safety. Tying deck steel at Span 4 Day 42
To reach their goal on time, crews knew “The quick response of the Oklahoma
they had to plan ahead to ensure that the DOT, the Federal Highway
bridge’s existing east end steel girders Administration, contractors and support
would fit exactly with the new steel girders from the states of California and Texas,
— something that was on the critical path combined with innovative contracting
from the job’s start. Crews applied quick methods and construction processes, have
thinking and innovative contracting served as an example of how well and
methods to achieve the desired result. how quickly our country can respond in a
Original plans called for removing the time of disaster,” Peters said. “And
existing splice plates and reusing the web importantly, they completed this Photo courtesy of ODOT

splice ream holes. After exposing the job not only in record time very Night concrete delivery Day 44
existing splice plates by first removing 10- efficiently, but with an exemplary Page
ft. of the bridge’s east deck, Gilbert safety record on the project itself.” 5
decided to ream, or enlarge, the holes of “In a challenging project like
the existing girders prior to “fit-up,” which this, where we were working
expedited the entire process. demanding hours, above water,
“At the time of bid, we secured a steel up high and within tight
fabricator who assisted us with this conditions, there were all kinds of
procedure,” Sasich said. “We sent them opportunities for accidents,” Poe
four sets of the existing splice plates said. “Everyone was looking out
attached to 2-ft.-long by 11-ft.-deep girder for each other’s safety, watching Photo courtesy of ODOT

pieces.” each other’s back.” Final deck pour at Span 4 Day 45

Using the original pattern, the steel
fabricator was able to match-drill new Final Wrap-Up
girders. The strong spirit of camaraderie still
lingers, as the team works to
achieve final completion by the
end of September.
Work that remains includes
dry finishing, lane striping,
stripping of overhang forms,
point-and-patching of
substructure concrete, Erect curb and rail at Span 4 Day 46
restoration of the
staging area, rock
removal from the river,
installation of
aluminum handrailing,
Photo courtesy of ODOT
painting of structural
During the July 29 I-40 Bridge reopening ceremony, Oklahoma dignitaries steel and installation of
drive the first vehicle eastbound over the new structure. Westbound traffic 12 vibration dampeners.
reopened shortly thereafter. —Continued on page 6—
Photo courtesy of ODOT
Kieways July-August 2002 I-40 Bridge reopens to traffic Day 47
cover story
Working in close partnership with ODOT,
The Rush for Resources Gilbert’s vital role in the successful
completion of the I-40 Bridge will not soon be

O bachelor’s degree in construction science. He was looking for a full-time position

n May 11, 2002, Kevin Kilgore graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a forgotten.
“This project will serve as another Kiewit
that would provide some challenging hands-on field experience like the internship he example that we can set a schedule record
held with Gilbert Central the prior summer. while safely building a quality project within
On May 20, he was hired full-time by Gilbert Central as a field engineer. It would budget,” Sasich said. “The participating
only be days before he, along with many other Kiewit personnel, would quickly mobilize districts really stepped up to the plate.”
to the I-40 Bridge project site to begin the “around- “We all realized from working on this
the-clock” emergency reconstruction. project that we can do things that we never
“It’s hard to believe people are driving across thought we could do before,” Ridley said. “We
the bridge right now,” Kilgore said. “It’s been a showed the people of this state that if we’re
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You don’t see things given the financial resources and freedom to
like this very often, if ever. While all of us mourn perform the work, the public and private
those who died here, I’m proud to have been a sectors can get a lot of work done in a hurry.”
“ODOT set their sights on an ambitious
part of the rebuilding effort.”
target,” Fuller said. “We planted a lot of
One of more than 100 Kiewit employees called
ground for ODOT and created a precedent.
to the front line, Kilgore quickly learned first-hand
We were fortunate to have a contractor that
how important rapid mobilization of resources can
brought a great amount of professional
be to a project’s successful completion. expertise and resources to the table. It’s been a
“This job has opened my eyes to real-world very successful project for both parties.”
experiences,” Kilgore said. “I found out you can
only learn so much in school. The real benefit Texas District job personnel included Alberto Alejandre,
Photo courtesy of ODOT comes from hands-on work. Next time I’m faced Jaime Alejandre, Elias Alonso, Juan Anguiano, Justin
Axness, Bruce Bacon, Juan Barrientos, RL Bell, Bill
Seven cranes served as workhorses to with a challenge, I’ll know it’s possible.”
Biesterfeld, Allen Boudreaux, G I Branch, Bud Breashears,
achieve early substantial completion. Racing against a clock that started ticking at
John Brown, Ralph Burch, Rudolfo Carrasco, Jose
Here, work progresses at the I-40 6 p.m. on June 12, the Gilbert team knew that Castellanos, Edward Crouse, Jim Dougherty, Crystal
Bridge’s west abutment. rapid mobilization of people, equipment and
Page Dulas, Albert Duran, Benjamin Esquivel, Juan Esquivel,
6 materials was key. Within hours of winning the job, Gilbert assigned responsibilities, Terrell Evans, Omar Fernandez, Michael Fitzgerald, Curtis
secured equipment, awarded 19 subcontracts, and mobilized a seasoned crew of Friday, James Garner, Jeremiah Glover, Carlos Gonzalas,
professionals from several Kiewit districts — all trained to work together in a seamless team. Abraham Gonzalaz, Bobby Gray, Todd Greenwood, Alex
“The Gilbert team didn’t have a weakness in depth,” John Fuller, ODOT Assistant Guerrero, Josh Hanson, Arlie Henson, Matthew
Director of Operations, said. “The team was made up of good, talented people who Herbrough, Fidel Hernandez, Julio Hernandez, Rodney
Hoffman, Paul Holley, Mark Holman, Shey Huckaby,
worked until the job was finished. We have a great deal of respect for them.”
Richard Joiner, Chad Jones, Brandon Julian, Michael
Julian, Bradley Karrer, Jennifer Kilgore, Kevin Kilgore,
Equipment Resources Gayle Kitchin, Marlin Klotz, Kok Wai Kong, Jordan Lane,
Equipment mobilization was equally important to the project’s success. Just as Felipe Lara, Florencio Lara, Zenaido Lara, Martin
people were being mobilized from all parts of the country, so was the bulk of the Leibrand, Manuel Lopez, Rafael Lopez, Adam Luna, Bob
equipment. Seven cranes, ranging in capacity from 80 to 300 tons, were rapidly moved Lush, Thomas Maples, Gerardo Martinez, Dana McCoy,
from four states to work side-by-side within a tight 2-acre area. Roy McGregor, Stan Mediate, Gilberto Medrano Jr., Mario
“We got the job on Wednesday and by Friday, we had a 240-ton crane sitting at the Medrano Jr., Jesus Medrano, Jose Medrano, Mario
Medrano, Colin Meredith, Albert Mondragon, Rodolpho
project site,” Virgil Tipsword, Gilbert job superintendent over the field operations, said.
Mora, Patrica Morales, Dave Nelson, Burney Owens,
“At the same time, we were mobilizing operators. Every minute counted.” Ernesto Parada, David Pickering, Dean Piper, Jim Poe,
“You just don’t move these kinds of loads across state lines that fast and have Christopher Polomsky, Paul Powers, Huri Prastiyanto,
cranes of this size up and working so quickly,” Bill Biesterfeld, Texas District Equipment Sergio Rangel, Sabino Renteria, Jesus Rios, Jose Rivas,
Manager, said. “It took a tremendous amount of effort for the tear down and Hector Riveria, Barry Roberson, Gary Rogers, Ryan
reassembly of these cranes. From the Texas district to the job sites, other districts, and Rustan, Juan Salazar, David Santin, Brandon Shada, Terry
our home office, everyone was pulling on the same rope.” Targett, Jason Terrell, Wayne Throp, Virgil Tipsword,
Everyone was aware of the challenges involved, as well as the project needs. Every Michael Wakefield, Stephen Walters, Justin Weese, Matt
Wellman, Warren Wellman and Jeff Whitehead. Denver
job within the Texas District was asked to contribute people and equipment. Every
District job personnel included Frank Gonzales, Larry
Kiewit district knew the importance of providing assistance. Many districts lent Grimes, Clay Perry, Salvador Villeczas, James Wadkins,
resources, compensating in other ways to continue work at other sites. Jim Wadkins, Aleyandro Zepeda and Angel Zepeda.
“As a team, everyone performed exceptionally well. I couldn’t ask for any better Kiewit Engineering Co. job personnel included Bob
response and cooperation than I received during this project,” Stan Mediate, Gilbert Broderick, Sung Lee and Dennis Murphy. Kiewit Offshore
On-Site Area Manager, said. “The sense of urgency and the devotion that everyone Services job personnel included Renee Hinderosa and
gave to this job were incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of our project personnel and Raymond Reta. Pacific Structures District job
the Kiewit companies than I am right now.” personnel included Michael Klein.

Kieways July-August 2002