ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – At the end of August, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene halted rail traffic across a three-span railroad bridge in White River Junction when raging floodwaters damaged the piers that support the structure.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved $14,819,168 for the cost of repairs to the AOT Rail Bridge #501. The federal share for the project, 75 percent, or $11,114,376, will be paid to the state of Vermont, which will then disperse the funds to the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The remaining cost will be covered by the state.
After the damage, it was essential to get the rail line open as quickly as possible. VTrans workers toiled 24/7 to expedite the reopening of Bridge 501, which spans the White River. Piles were driven and framing was pieced together during the day. Welding was done by night – including some under water. A collapsed steel bridge was discovered underwater where piles needed to be driven, adding to the complexity of the project.
Trains were able to roll across it six weeks later, on October 11, 2001. However, repairs continued, but the work zone had to be demobilized a few hours a day during train crossings.
Pier 1 of the bridge needed to be replaced and Pier 2 was repaired. The closest crane that could support the bridge during repairs was located in New Jersey. It took 22 tractor-trailers to deliver the giant crane on site. A separate crane assembled it in one week. The larger crane was used to support the spans for approximately four weeks while the repair pieces were constructed.
Once the repairs were completed, the construction equipment had to be taken down. It took one week to dismantle temporary supports. A pad of quarry stone and other fill – used to support the large crane – was removed and the materials were repurposed to armor the north and south banks of the river.
Bridge 501 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is supported by a substructure of granite blocks and piers that was built in 1906. The superstructure, built in 1936 by American Steel Co., consists of three 121-foot spans for a total length of 363 feet.
The concrete used for Pier 1 will be stained to match existing granite abutments to retain the historic appearance of the bridge. Final clean-up and landscaping is expected to be completed by summer 2012.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders and to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.