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Early Opening Earns Highway Contractor $5-Million Bonus
By Mike Nolan, Robert Carlsen
Major San Francisco-area transportation artery re-opens 32 days ahead of schedule.

Contractor C.C. Myers earned a $5-million bonus for repairing a 165-ft-long segment of a major San Francisco-area transportation artery in just 18 days. California Dept. of Transportation officials had budgeted 50 days and $5.2 million.

On May 7, C.C. Myers’ $867,075 bid won the Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based firm the contract to repair a section of I-580 that flies over I-880 in an Emeryville interchange called “MacArthur Maze,” about a mile east of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge.

On April 29, the intense heat from a gas tanker-truck fire caused the steel frame of the freeway to soften, and the eastbound I-580 connector to collapse.

The contract included an incentive of $200,000 per day if the project was finished before the June 27 deadline and a $200,000-per-day penalty for missing the 50-day goal. Finishing 32 days early allowed the company to collect the maximum $5-million bonus.

In the first 24 hours, Caltrans prepped for the contract, says Skip Sowko, project manager, Caltrans engineering department.  “We estimated a pretty straight- forward repair project with a reasonable schedule. We wanted the bonus to be attainable. The only variable was the steel,” he says.

One decision made early in the process was to replace the damaged steel bent cap with a concrete bent cap to save time, Sowko says. But steel girders were still a necessity.  “It was critical to get the girder lengths to match exactly,” says Peter Strykers, Caltrans’ senior bridge engineer and structural representative on the project. “A setback in a measurement could have impacted the project by weeks,” he adds.  The field team used a laser scanning device to get exact data. “It was windy, and if we were using conventional survey equipment, we would have had to wait until the wind died down, ” Strykers says.

Immediately after the Oakland office of Cleveland Wrecking Co. cleared the wreckage, consulting engineer Wiss, Janney & Elstner, Emeryville, Calif., tested the four main concrete columns used to hold up the damaged I-580 sections.

“Our tests found that it was not necessary to strengthen or replace the columns,” says WJE’s branch manager Kent Sasaki. “The only problem we found was to replace the grout on top of two of the columns, which Caltrans did.”

After the contract award, C.C. Myers started work immediately. On Tuesday,  May 15, Reeve Trucking Co. Inc., Stockton, arrived on the jobsite with the 55-ft concrete bent cap. The 243,750-lb bent cap, fabricated by Con-Fab, Lathrop, Calif., was placed across the two columns using a crane on either end to lift it from the flatbed and was locked onto the steel-jacketed columns with fastening bolts. 

C.C. Myers used its supply network to get the steel fabricated in a hurry, Sowko says. “The acquisition helped the schedule tremendously and allowed us to streamline the sequencing by the minute.”

Twelve steel girders, which were placed perpendicular across the bent cap, started arriving from Stinger Welding, the fabricator in Coolidge, Ariz., on Wednesday, May 16. The girders, each 78-ft-long, 4-ft-high and weighing 20,000 lb, were used to hold up the concrete road deck.

By Sunday, May 20, all girders were installed and the deck falsework constructed. The 200-cu-yd concrete pour began at 4 p.m. that day. It took 96 hours to cure.

“A project this size would usually take two or three months to complete, and most of that would be waiting for Caltrans approval for different parts,” says Donald Reeve, president of Reeve Trucking. “But [Caltrans] had the motivation to work with [C.C. Myers]. This was an emergency.”


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