Emergency engineering for Bridge S-189.19

Project Summary

A dedicated team from Norfolk Southern Railway Co., Hanson Professional Services Inc. and Massman Construction Co. worked together to help Norfolk Southern rebuild a bridge in 27 days after it collapsed under the pressure of a flooded river and debris.

A buildup of tree limbs and high water had been pushing on the 103-year-old rail bridge over the Grand River near Brunswick, Missouri, leading Norfolk Southern to cut the rails the evening of Oct. 1, 2019, to relieve pressure and prevent further damage to its rail line. A portion of the bridge was wiped out within minutes. Four spans and three piers — about 267 feet of the 1,110-foot-long bridge — were swept away.

With the bridge out, up to 14 trains per day had to be detoured, causing delays that affected the area’s economy. Grain is carried out of Chariton County on the tracks, which run through Brunswick. The bridge collapse occurred during harvest season — another blow to farmers who had been set back by severe flooding in the spring. And the longer the bridge was closed, the risk of financial loss increased for Norfolk Southern. The railroad faced an urgent repair.

The next morning, Norfolk Southern contacted its contractor, Massman, and Hanson for assistance.

Massman sent two barge-mounted cranes to the site to prepare for the reconstruction. Within a week of the collapse, Hanson had assessed the aftermath, started developing a plan for the replacement section, worked with the railroad to produce an initial layout and collected soil borings from the site to refine the estimated geotechnical parameters.

Precast concrete was used to accelerate the construction of the piers. The precast pier caps were made using high early strength, high-performance concrete, then steam-cured overnight, which meant these pieces could be delivered and ready to install within 24 hours after the concrete was poured. Other bridge components were already available elsewhere, such as steel spans from Norfolk Southern’s inventory that could be transported by railcar.

After the caps were installed, Massman erected the adjacent spans with new bearings. Norfolk Southern crews finished installing the open deck ties and the rail. The bridge reopened to trains Oct. 28.

Everyone on the project team was focused on quickly and safely rebuilding the bridge to get Norfolk Southern’s track back in service. Several Hanson employees worked during the evenings and weekends, and the contractor team pulled double shifts to keep the construction going around the clock. Hanson’s preliminary design drawings were provided to all team members to review and offer input. Hanson also was on-site to help with coordination and provide construction management services and used a drone to photograph the project’s progress for review by Norfolk Southern’s management.

Massman used experienced craftworkers, including certified welders and crane operators, as well as a Coast Guard-licensed boat pilot. The project team also conducted extensive material testing to verify quality compliance. Ultimately, the project was completed in 27 days­ — weeks ahead of the originally estimated 56-day schedule.

The project team’s goal was to rebuild the Grand River Bridge and restore this important main line to service immediately. The use of the client’s existing inventory of bridge spans and the project team’s willingness to expedite material sourcing, fabrication and delivery ultimately allowed the project team to achieve its goal.

This benefited not only Norfolk Southern’s rail operations but also the farmers and communities who rely on Norfolk Southern and the Grand River Bridge to transport grain and products to the marketplace.