Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How the Oakland freeway collapse was fixed in less than a month

Remember the April 29 freeway collapse in Oakland, California? Transportation officials speculated that it could take months to rebuild, but it was fixed in 25 days, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Contractor C.C. Myers got the job done using practices that remind me a lot of Goldratt's Critical Chain:
[Caltrans officials] drew up a contract offering a $200,000 bonus -- with a limit of $5 million -- for each day the work was done in less than 50 days and levying a $200,000 penalty for each day after that deadline.

The 2-inch steel plate needed to make the bottom flange of the steel girders was loaded onto trucks with two drivers in each rig so they could make the trips with fewer stops.

"Caltrans came in and put good people in our shop,'' [Stinger president Carl] Douglas said. "If there were any problems, we could go to them and get immediate answers. Usually (done by phone, fax or e-mail), it takes weeks. It was a breath of fresh air to have a government agency come in and perform like that."

The [243-ton beam] was so heavy that the truck wasn't permitted on I-580 over the Altamont Pass and had to use rural roads to get to the Tri-Valley. Still, the bent cap arrived about 15 minutes before Caltrans' scheduled 8 p.m. closure May 15 of the I-880 connector for the installation, and had to wait on the side of Interstate 80 in Berkeley.

As soon as each pair [of girders] was secured, workers swarmed the steel beams and started installing the wooden forms and steel-reinforcement bar for the concrete roadway. On a typical job, the contractor would wait until the girders were all installed before preparing for the concrete pour, Land said.

"C.C. Myers was very good at coordinating things. They eliminated the transitions, the waiting time,'' [Rick Land, Caltrans' chief engineer] said.

Instead of requiring the contractor to wait for detailed construction drawings to be approved, Caltrans agreed to let the work start while they were being reviewed.
The eponymous owner of the C.C. Myers construction company is an interesting character in his own right. When the Northridge earthquake destroyed a stretch of I-10 in 1994, Caltrans officials predicted it would take 12-18 months to fix. C.C. Myers finished it in 2 months.

I wish Massachusetts had hired C.C. Myers for the Big Dig.

(Thanks to jillsy@Reddit for bringing this story to my attention.)

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