Custom Excavator Works to Restore Pedestrian Traffic Normalcy at Ground Zero

Flag-wrapped excavator makes quick work of temporary bridge demolition to clear the path for a new permanent structure.

KOBELCO SK350 at Freedom Tower in NYC: Part 1

Downtown Manhattan has been abuzz with massive construction projects for more than 10 years following 9/11. While the construction and reconstruction continues, the new normal in terms of pedestrian traffic in the area is starting to present itself. The Vesey Street, West Side Highway intersection is one area that represents this shift. The first Vesey Street Bridge originally provided access from the World Trade Center to the World Financial Center. This original bridge was destroyed in the collapse of 1 World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks, closing the intersection of Vesey Street and the West Side Highway.

Ground was broken for a temporary Vesey Street Bridge in August of 2003, opening in November 2003, when PATH train service to a temporary terminal by the WTC site resumed, connecting the southwest corner of Vesey Street and the West Side Highway, next to 3 World Trade Center, to the northeast corner, next to 140 West Side Highway (Verizon Building). Access to the temporary panel bridge, was designed with the America Disability Act in mind. Escalators and elevators were built on each side of the bridge to allow pedestrians access without the use of stairs. This temporary bridge allowed for the safe movement of pedestrian traffic over the busy West Side Highway as a new, underground tunnel was being built.

The temporary bridge was officially closed on October 7th, 2013, with demolition starting just before Thanksgiving and anticipated to wrap up in early January. The demolition project of the temporary bridge was handled through a joint venture between Tully Construction Co. and EE Cruz and Company, both of whom have been actively working to restore downtown Manhattan since shortly after the 9/11 attacks. According to Bob Smith, the job superintendent, “The bridges themselves were removed in spans on a Friday and Saturday evening, the only two days that the busy West Side Highway could be shut down. Once removed, each span was placed on the ground ready for the actual demolition work to begin.”

Flag-wrapped Machine Flies Through Demolition Process

A 270-hp, 81,800-lb. Kobelco SK350 excavator equipped with a shear was brought in from heavy equipment dealer Robert H. Finke & Sons of Selkirk, NY, to handle the demolition of the bridge spans. With one of the spans placed in the closed off-center corridor of the West Side Highway, rubber necking delays were definitely a reality during demolition. Motorists not only got a clear view of the demolition work, but also of the excavator wrapped in American flag graphics. It was a fitting machine to be working in an area that forever changed our country.

“This Kobelco 350 is part of our rental fleet,” states Don Fiacco, General Manager for Finke Equipment. “When we received the call for an excavator with a shear, it was apparent which excavator we’d be sending down. The patriotic sentiment tied to this machine, originally displayed at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2011, and its specifications of course, made it a perfect fit, so we installed the shear on it and brought it down to the city to complete the work.”

The excavator/shear product combination, with its 10.0-rpm swing speed, quickly cut through all 167,000 lbs. of the six 10-ft. sections of the bridge. With the demolition nearing completion, the next portion of the project is the reconstruction of the center lanes of the West Side Highway, where barrier walls and plantings will be installed.
The temporary Vesey Street Bridge was replaced by an underground passageway connecting the World Financial Center with the PATH station and ultimately the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which will connect to the Fulton Center via the Dey Street Passageway.