Inspectors give an inside look
at Veterans Memorial Bridge

Last week, the iconic Veterans Memorial Bridge on Interstate 90 over Bennett Bay was due for a checkup.

Jim Holland, Toby Griffin, Scott Litchfield and Rene Leon from the inspection team scanned the bridge for any problems, working in tandem with the D1 bridge crew.

Local crews usually provide traffic control for scheduled inspections, but the D1 crew, led by TJ Gibson, took advantage of the opportunity, using the already-closed lanes to broom the deck and flush the drains.

“This crew is great to work with. They even cut down some trees around the piers so we could get a better look at the base,” Griffin said.

As a bridge inspector trainee, Griffin normally handles some of the controls for the Kenworth A-62 underbridge inspection truck fondly called Kenny. New to the department in November 2017, Kenny provides unparalleled access to the underside of bridges and was the focus of a social-media campaign last year that earned interest from several news organizations.

Kenny has a boom and bucket that extends 62 feet up and around bridges. His sole operator, Leon, ensures the safety of those in the bucket below by using counterweights built into the truck. Sixteen thousands pounds in counterweights—rather than outriggers seen on other models—stabilize the truck but also allow a mobile operation.

Down below, Griffin operates the bucket controls and keeps an eye out for obstacles, allowing inspectors, like Holland and Litchfield, to focus solely on the structure and worry less about their heads.

Veterans Memorial Bridge stands out for its unique construction, with drone flights scheduled to inspect the inside of the piers and a hollow interior to be looked at (while keeping an eye on oxygen levels (critical for the inspectors in an enclosed space).

The team’s initial inspection was set for one day, but the group kindly extended an invitation to other ITD employees, with 15 accepting the opportunity to glimpse the inside of the structure.

Dan Budd came to ITD around the time the bridge was being built in the late 1980s, but never had a chance to view the inside.

“I knew it was big, but I didn’t think that big,” Budd said. “I wasn’t sure I’d ever get the chance to see it, so that was a special day.”

Next month, the surface of the bridge will be re-sealed, and a loose expansion joint on the west end of the bridge is also scheduled to be fixed. Other than the loose joint, Holland said there are no structural issues with the bridge. By the end of this year the bridge section will have a completed asset management plan that will maximize the bridge’s service life.

Published 05-17-19