I stood in awe last night in the middle of Interstate 5 in Burlington and watched crews attack and destroy the SR 11/Chuckanut Drive overpass. It was reduced from a functioning road to a pile of rubble in a matter of hours. All that concrete and steel didn’t stand a chance against power of the hydraulic machinery.
Crews brought in two excavators outfitted with a hydraulic Hoe ram and hydraulic jaws. The Hoe ram was basically a jackhammer on steroids. The bridge and ground shuddered as it repeatedly battered the overpass. At times, I had to lift the camera and tripod off the ground while taking video and pictures because of all the shaking. The hydraulic jaws looked like a T-rex munching on concrete. The machines ripped through the steel and concrete like they were tearing wrapping paper off a present.
There is just something about watching construction equipment tear down stuff that is awesome. It’s too bad that I wasn’t Mike Rowe from the show Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. I’m sure that if he was on-site last night, the crew would have let him ride in the excavators and a take a whack at the bridge. I imagine the demolition was like taking a swing at a stationary piñata with a bat. Who doesn’t love to hit piñatas? I definitely wanted a turn so I could take a swing.
The demolition was an impressive display of power and might. From start to finish, the whole process took less than six hours. Crews closed the interstate at 11 p.m. and detoured traffic. Dump trucks poured sand on the interstate beneath the overpass to protect the pavement from falling debris. Within 15 minutes of the closure, crews started in with the Hoe ram. First to come down was the concrete guardrail. Then the roadway was punched out between the concrete girders. By midnight, crews had moved off the overpass and onto I-5, using the hydraulic jaws to tear into the concrete girders. And by 1:30 a.m., all six girders that originally supported the overpass were gone. A gaping hole replaced what used to be a bridge. We were all surprised it came down so quickly. Our goal was to remove the damaged span over I-5 without damaging the rest of the bridge. We accomplished the goal in one night; one night faster than planned, and reopened I-5 on time at 5 a.m.
This was the second time in five years that I’ve had the opportunity to stand in the middle of Interstate 5 and watch bridge demolition. Both times I’ve mentally noted how weird it is to stand in the middle of I-5 without having traffic whizzing by – and how cool it must be to operate one of those giant machines knocking down the bridge. Maybe next time we take a bridge down, they’ll let me have a turn.