Over 20 Lattice-Boom Manitowoc Crawlers on Florida Bridge Project – Video
The Howard Frankland Bridge has been an iconic Florida landmark for over half a century, carrying 132,000 vehicles along I-275 between Tampa and St. Petersburg daily. However, its infamous traffic jams have resulted in the bridge becoming a major chokepoint, and multiple expansions since its opening in 1960 have proven only partially successful in reducing congestion and traffic accidents.
Once again, the bridge is undergoing a major upgrade — and an army of Manitowoc cranes is almost exclusively providing the heavy-duty support necessary for the Florida Department of Transportation’s largest-ever plan to cater to future growth in the Tampa Bay area. The bridge’s design and construction are a 60:40 joint venture between Archer Western Construction LLC, part of The Walsh Group, and Traylor Bros. Inc.
Work began in November 2020 on the $865.3 million project to build a brand-new structure alongside the existing southbound bridge. At just under three miles long, the complex new, 168 ft (51.2m) wide design will support more deck area than any other bridge in the state, which explains why 3,000 concrete and steel piles — a potential 43 miles (69.2km) worth of them — will be installed into the bay’s limestone bedrock. It also reveals why over 20 lattice-boom Manitowoc crawlers, including a 4100 ringer, are the workhorse fleet on the project, boasting the best load charts in their class and outstanding performance in bridge-building operations. Models include 14000, 999s, 2250s, 888, and MLC300s, with standard maximum capacities between 200USt and 330USt (181.4t – 299.4t).
Planning for the crane-intensive project started 1,200 miles away at The Walsh Group’s Chicago headquarters.
“One of the unique challenges of this job is the sheer number of cranes needed. From a business stance, buying all new was not the right option, so we used a mixed strategy. With the volume of Manitowoc crawlers in our fleet, we refurbished many of our existing cranes and supplemented them with four new MLC300 models,” said Chris Stearns, senior manager at Walsh. “We also purchased used Manitowoc crawlers that were refurbished by the Walsh shops in Chicago and Texas and at Manitowoc dealer Ring Power Crane in Florida.”
Ring Power Crane refurbished and repaired several 2250s, 888s, 14000s, and one MLC300, with all work completed in-house at their Riverview, Florida, location. This included an overhaul of the mechanical and hydraulic systems, tracks, and full repainting of each refurbished crane.
Walsh turned to Manitowoc dealer Walter Payton Power Equipment, based in Riverdale, Illinois, to help prepare an armada of ready-to-work cranes. In addition to providing parts for the refurb, WPPE offered guidance on crawler selection and configuration, barge loading processes, and special adaptions to fortify the units for marine applications.
The bridge’s construction is linear, starting at both ends concurrently and progressing to the center. This required tight coordination for equipment selection, said Pat Delis, Walsh’s account rep at WPPE.
“Part of the challenge with driving pile in Tampa Bay is that the geology of the rock changes rather rapidly across the entire bay, both in-depth and hardness. Once we’ve selected the correct model for the capacity and radius, each crane needed to be configured specific to its application,” Delis said. “Strong charts were a major concern since the center of gravity is always changing on the water, and Manitowoc crawlers have a reputation for their solid barge charts.”
As of May 2022, crews have sunk over 1,700 concrete piles, ranging anywhere from 77 ft – 121 ft ((23.5m – 36.9m) in length due to the uneven floor of the basin. “Each concrete pile weighs about 1,000 lbs per foot (453.6kg per 30.48cm), so if we’re driving a 121-foot (36.9m) pile, you’re looking for around 121,000 lbs (54.88kg) to trek that pile from just one crane. So, this isn’t a job for just any crane,” said Greg Fullington, project executive with The Walsh Group.
In typical pile driving from barges, beams of this size require two crawlers to tip into position. Seeking a more productive method, Walter Payton collaborated with the Manitowoc Lift Solutions team to design special tilt block adaptors to deftly handle the piles.
“Now, you can place the pile with a single crane because you can hang two blocks from the same point,” said Dustin Soerens, product support specialist with Walter Payton. “The tilt block adaptor pins into the lower boom point and provides sheave-mounted transverse to the boom, allowing the piles to be tilted side-to-side without exceeding the allowable angles of the wire rope reeving.”
Another complexity of marine piledriving is the constant saltwater spray back from augering. The crawlers were fortified with a special marine-based zinc undercoating to resist corrosion over the five years the cranes will be on the water.