The Bay St. Louis Bridge, which connects the community of the Bay of St. Louis, was washed out by Katrina; deck panels were actually flipped off their piers. Destruction of the bridge has created many hardships for residents. It turned a two-minute drive into about a 45-minute commute.
A $266.8 million reconstruction project, being completed by Granite Archer Western, a joint venture between Granite Construction Co. and Archer Western Contractors, will result in a totally different structure. The previous bridge sat approximately 20 ft. above the water's surface. "We are replacing it with an 85-ft.-tall structure, eliminating the need for a drawbridge and giving the bridge the ability to withstand a storm surge better than it did the last time," says Galvin.
The timeline for completion is rather aggressive. "It is a design/build project where we have to have one lane open in each direction by May 16," says Galvin. "The whole thing has to be completed by November 2007."
To get the project completed in a timely fashion, the new bridge is being built 150 ft. to the north of the old one. What remains of the old bridge is being dredged and removed.
Unlike some companies, equipment has not been much of a challenge for Granite Construction Co. "We had a couple months of staging — getting things up and running," says Galvin. But now the pile drivers are hard at work.
Similarly, it has not faced major issues with material availability. "We are a short barge trip away from some of the pre-cast concrete suppliers for the bridge piers," says Galvin.
The problem has actually been finding workers to operate the equipment. "Workforce has been one of our biggest challenges," says Galvin. "We could be doing three shifts if we had more people. We need pile drivers, crane operators and laborers. All levels of the workforce are missing in action."
Contributing to the problem is the housing situation. "Apartment buildings and homes were all washed away in many cases," says Galvin. "That's why we have offered housing. If they can't find housing on their own, one option is getting a place in our 'man camp.' "
Granite Construction Co. is confident it will meet its targets despite the labor issue. "To get all of this built in a year, it is a challenge," says Galvin. "It is taking on a bit of risk. But we would not have taken it on if we didn't think we could do it."
Pipeworks Plumbing & Demolition is no stranger to home demolition. "We were tearing down roughly 100 homes before the storm," says Chong. "We were working with contractors who were steadily tearing down older houses to build newer houses. We do a lot of demolition. Plus, we are plumbers."
The company owns a diverse fleet of equipment. "We have a real buffet of machines to choose from," says Chong. The fleet includes three Bobcat track loaders (a T190 and two T300s), five Bobcat compact excavators (three 334s, a 442 and a 430), a Bobcat V723 telescopic handler, Caterpillar 320 excavators, a John Deere 120 excavator and a John Deere 80 compact excavator.
The fleet was immediately mobilized after Katrina. "We started cleaning up for the City of Harahan the first week after the storm," says Chong. "Our shop is in Harahan. I was born and raised in Harahan. Most of my people live in Harahan or Jefferson Parish.
"We were very fortunate that we did not get flooded," Chong adds. "My shop had electricity, even after the storm. We had a phone. We have a diesel tank, so we had fuel." Its equipment also sustained minimal damage. "I had two machines that did go under water that were in Orleans."
The first two weeks consisted of emergency work. Then it went to a bid process, and Pipeworks Plumbing & Demolition was awarded a contract to clean up the city. "The mayor, chief of police, fire chief — it was a team effort," says Chong. "We recruited other people on a smaller scale that had equipment."
Since there were no working phones in the city, communication became critical. "If I wanted to talk to the mayor, I had to ride around until I found him," says Chong.
Communication was aided by scheduled meeting times. "We would meet every morning and every evening at the fire station," says Chong. "That way, we could communicate. Because I have seen these people every day for the last 20 years, we didn't have as much red tape as maybe some other people."