Crews working to reconnect middle of collapsed Rancocas Creek bridge The center span crashed four months ago and was left resting on the bank. It is expected to be fixed by today.

Posted: July 28, 2001

RIVERSIDE — Crews yesterday began the painstaking process of righting the center span of the Rancocas Creek bridge. The 800-ton blue steel structure has been resting  at a 45-degree angle - on the south creek bank since it toppled during construction almost four months ago.

The 210-foot-long center span was under construction on a barge between Delanco and Riverside when it fell April 5, crashing into a crane and prompting several workers to jump into the water. No one was injured. The bridge is considered one of the jewels of the $800 million Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System, 34 miles of track with 20 stops from Camden to Trenton. Passenger service is scheduled to begin early in 2003.

"It will be a great deal of relief to have this back where it belongs," said Marcus Vitiello, spokesman for Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., one of the partners in the Southern New Jersey Light Rail Group, a consortium contracted by New Jersey Transit to design, build, operate and maintain the line.

The Rail Group will absorb costs associated with the accident, Vitiello said. About 200 workers, including engineers, marine consultants and bridge designers have been involved in righting the center span and determining what went wrong, he said.

Rigging International, a California company that has helped salvage bridges damaged by earthquakes and other disasters, was directing about 50 workers on site yesterday. The process, which could take between seven and 24 hours to complete depending on tides, was expected to be completed by midday today.

The creek is closed to marine traffic through Monday, and law enforcement boats are patrolling the water. Airspace in the area was also restricted while the structure was being pulled upright so that aircraft would not interfere with communications between workers on either side of the creek, officials said.

Crews used about 4,000 feet of cable to hoist the structure. Diesel-powered winches, anchored to concrete blocks, slowly pulled on cables running from each side of the center span. The pulley system was used to create tension to prevent the structure from tipping to its other side.

When the structure is upright, four extra 41-foot-long barges will be added to the main 180-foot barge for added balance.

Next week, the center span will be turned and floated into place between the two piers. It will rest on concrete pads already in place, officials said.

Lauren Mayk's e-mail address is lmayk@phillynews.com.

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