Arch unrivaled: First arch installed for new West Seventh Street bridge

Posted Friday, May. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For Deanna Sneed, the first arch installed on the West Seventh Street bridge is more than a 300-ton hunk of concrete.

It’s a harp-shaped symbol of the transformation of the West Seventh neighborhood from a boring place to one with style.

“I remember when this area was desolate, and to see it built up so nicely, I just love it,” said Sneed, who works in the Wortham insurance accounting department on the west side of downtown. Like many employees, Sneed ventured to the nearby Cash America parking garage roof Friday morning to watch workers install the first of 12 arches that will form the exoskeleton of the new West Seventh Street bridge.

Inch by inch, workers with Sundt Construction moved the arch 1,000 feet to the east end of the bridge, then hoisted it into its proper place using two cranes towering more than 100 feet into the air. Each was supported on the ground by 200 tons of iron counterweights stacked together like barbells from the Greek god Hercules’ great gym in the sky.

“I remember when this area wasn’t anything, and now you see people walking around, people with strollers,” she said. “It has transformed into a great place.”

For workers at Sundt, placing the first arch capped off a week of tweaks and adjustments. On Tuesday, when workers moved the arch its first 500 feet, they discovered that the transport vehicles didn’t have enough support to keep the arch from swaying. At one point, workers nearly panicked when they thought the arch might fall.

But such challenges are routine for a company known for tackling big projects. A Sundt crew recently moved an entire 1,100-foot-long steel truss bridge in Portland, Ore.

The Fort Worth project has presented no insurmountable obstacles, said John Carlson, senior vice president of Sundt, based in San Antonio.

One key step was to shore up the West Seventh Street bridge so that the structure — which has scored poorly in state inspections for years — could carry the 300-ton arches without collapsing.

The vehicles used to roll the bridge into place — they resembled a pair of giant skateboards with a combined 368 wheels — also had to be modified to ensure that the arches could be moved without shifting.

“We’re taking it slow. We added some braces,” Carlson said. “We’re used to making adjustments. Each project is unique.”

For motorists, the West Seventh Street bridge is scheduled to remain closed through 6 a.m. Tuesday so workers can install the second arch. After that, the road will be reopened during business hours but will be closed on various nights and weekends so crews can install the other 10 arches, said Val Lopez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

The arches were cast and cured about 1,500 feet west of the bridge in a vacant lot owned by Chesapeake Energy.

All 12 are expected to be installed on the outside edges of the bridge by mid-June, at which point the old bridge will be demolished. The new bridge will be built between the arches, which are functioning as key weight-bearing support.

Construction of the new bridge is expected to take no more than 150 days. The state’s contract with Sundt calls for the company to receive a bonus for finishing early and a penalty for finishing late.

Motorists accustomed to using West Seventh Street to reach jobs downtown or in the West Seventh area have had to find new routes and will likely have to keep it up until perhaps around Thanksgiving, when the project is scheduled to be mostly complete. Many motorists have encountered frustrating long lines of traffic on nearby West Lancaster Avenue, the closest alternate route.

But not Lynn Young, who works at Cash America and also took a short break from work Friday morning to watch the arch installation.

“I go to work at 7 a.m.,” she said, “so it doesn’t bother me.”

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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Timelapse of the first arch installment

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