The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


June 25, 2007

Moving closer to reality

Timber-construction phase of new bridge to begin in July


Lifestyle Editor

The first load of prefabricated wooden members that will become the longest covered bridge in the United States should arrive in Ashtabula County early next month.

Ashtabula County Engineer Tim Martin says the members will be shipped from a treatment plant in Minneapolis, the last step in processing the wood that will go into the $7.7-million bridge.

"We could see bridge construction there in the next couple of weeks," he says.

Maurice Rhude, owner of Sentinel Structures in Peshtigo, Wisc., was in Ashtabula County last week to survey the progress and meet with Martin. Rhude confirms that the first loads of members will soon be on their way, with many more to follow. He estimates that 40 semi-tractor loads of timber will roll on to the project site during the next several months.

"It's a big job," he says.

Sentinel specializes in structural glue-laminated timber members for bridges, gymnasiums, sound barriers and other uses. While the Ashtabula Township bridge is a large job, it can't top the U.S. Census Building project Sentinel recently completed. Rhude said it had 16,000 white oak members.

The Ashtabula Bridge will have a small amount of white oak in it, but Rhude says the primary timber will be southern yellow pine from Arkansas and Alabama. "It's the supreme structural wood of the world," he says.

Regardless of it's supremacy, these trees don't come in the widths, lengths and strengths required by this project. The modified Pratt-design trusses will be 3 feet thick and comprised of individual, glue-laminated members measuring 163%25u20444-by-8-1%25u20442 inches thick. Rhude says his company starts with kiln-dried dimensional lumber, then glue laminates it to achieve the kind of strength demanded by highway projects.

Concrete pads have been poured on both sides of the chasm and will be used as assembly sites for the trusses. Martin says the trusses for the previous pre-fabricated bridge project, Giddings Road, were built horizontally, raised and lifted across the span. However, trusses for the new bridge will be built vertically and the floor beams installed between them while they are still on the pad. Each of the four 152-foot-long spans will then be moved in place using cranes.

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