An urban renaissance

18 April 2008

For Jeremy Anderson, the Marquette Interchange project in Milwaukee, WI is up-close and personal. A crane operator on the massive highway and bridge-building project, Anderson has operated a gamut of machines on the job, including an American 5299, an American 7260 and a Manitowoc 4000, initially pouring concrete for footings and piers. Last spring his supervisor sent him to pile driving school, a task he is looking forward to starting.

“There's a lot of pile driving work on the project,” says Anderson. “Th ey are driving big 16 inch pilings, some are going down 160 to 170 feet.”

On any given day, Anderson says one can count 37 to 40 crane booms in the air, and that just represents the lattice boom cranes. While he says most of the cranes on the job are mid-sized, he expects to see some large-scale crawlers and all-terrain cranes working on the job in the coming months.

To understand Anderson's fascination with the project, one needs to be able to realize the scope of the job. Essentially, the Marquette Interchange is an urban infrastructure project named after Marquette University (near which it is located) and is the convergence of Interstate 94, Interstate 43 and Interstate 794. Started in 2004, the project has a price tag of $810 million and is slated to be complete in 2008. The project involves replacing the outdated Central Interchange, which was first proposed in 1952 as a north/south freeway with an interchange in downtown Milwaukee. The interchange was finally completed in 1968.

Almost 25 years later, the old interchange was outdated and inadequate, and in some cases a safety hazard. The new Marquette Interchange was designed to ensure the safe and efficient flow of traffic. According to press information regarding the project, the new interchange will feature two lane ramps in both directions between I-94 and I-43, more gradual curves on ramps, ramps with longer sight distances, more distance between ramps to eliminate traffic conflicts from lane changes and the elimination of all left-hand entrances and exits.

“When it's finished in 2008 it's going to be a system that can handle much more traffic and it will be much safer,” says Anderson, who is proud of his community and proud to be a part of such an important project.

For the first two years of the project, much of the work concentrated on demolition, Anderson explains.

“The major work has been the demolition work and also setting 147,000 pound bridge beams,” he says. “We've been setting these beams with two cranes, a 110 ton capacity Terex and the Manitowoc 4000. It takes two crane picks, simultaneously.”

The demolition work last spring was especially interesting, too, Andersons says. “Th ey have been taking down the highest bridge,” he explains. “Th ey are not just breaking it up and letting it fall. Instead a 150 ton capacity Liebherr and a 215 ton capacity Terex rig up to each span and lower it to the ground.”

Anderson explains that the two cranes line up facing the old bridge span. They rig up to each span, which runs from one pier to another. Many of the spans have been as high as 70 to 80 feet. While they are rigged to the cranes, the spans are sawed apart. The cranes then lower them to ground, where they are broken up and hauled off. “It's really interesting to watch and it's all done at night because it's over several roadways and couldn't be done when cars are on the streets.”

As the spans get higher, Anderson says higher capacity cranes will be needed to take them down. “When they start getting to the higher spans that run over the river and channel, they are going to need cranes with a longer reach,” he says. “We'll be seeing cranes in the next size level for this work.


Receive the information you need when you need it through our world-leading magazines, newsletters and daily briefings.

Sign up