Expansion for demand

25 April 2008

Just a short trip from SC&RA's offices in Fairfax, Virginia, US, less than 15 miles (24 km) away from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., the view through my windshield has been very encouraging lately. On a recent drive north towards Baltimore, Maryland, I stopped counting after reaching 50 cranes along the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) between SC&RA headquarters and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge that links Virginia and Maryland across the Potomac River. Those cranes all were within a 20 mile (32 km) stretch of highway.

Ten miles from SC&RA, where Interstate 95/395 meets the Capital Beltway, lies the Springfield Interchange Improvement Project. Commonly known as the Mixing Bowl, this eight-year $676.25 million project impacts more than 430,000 vehicles every day.

The many cranes scattered throughout this project obviously are a welcome sight for the crane & rigging side of our association. The project also is good news for the specialized carriers that haul the 100 ton bridge beams and other oversize components to the site.

The final two phases of this seven-phase project are scheduled for completion in late summer 2007. Area commuters and truckers, including those from our member companies, are already noticing major improvements in traffic flow.

A few miles further down the road is the project to demolish the Wilson Bridge, built in 1961, and replace it with two new side-by-side drawbridges with a total of 12 lanes to carry about 250,000 vehicles daily. Like the Mixing Bowl Project, this project relies heavily on the expertise of crane & rigging and specialized carriers.

This $2.5 billion project began in 1999 and the bridges and surrounding interchange improvements should be complete by 2009. The first span opened on 16 July. To make room for the second span, a local commuter, who won a contest for being the driver who suffered the most from the bridge's congestion, initiated the detonation that demolished the original bridge shortly after midnight on 28 August.

In addition to doubling the bridge capacity, the new spans are about 20 feet (6 m) higher than the original span, which is expected to reduce the annual number of drawbridge openings from 260 to 65. These efforts to control congestion will make a major difference for the area's economy - and quality of life.

There is much more to come in this state. On 11 October the Virginia Transportation Board approved plans for an Interstate 81 Freight Rail Study, a range of short-term safety improvements along existing I-81, and the completion of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Study, which calls for additional lanes in each direction.

“Road and rail improvements are essential in the I-81 corridor, and we also recognize the critical links both provide to our ports,” noted Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer.

Every day transportation experts and economists around the world are making similar claims about infrastructure improvements. Increasingly, governments are paying attention. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, countries must strive to ensure the rapid, unimpeded movements of goods over highways and through ports.

The competition occurs even within nations. California, for example, wants to do everything it can to discourage shippers from turning to ports in Oregon or Washington.

Pick up any of the publications serving our industry, and you most likely will see news of major infrastructure projects. As these publications also indicate, a world that is growing in both population and affluence also grows hungrier for energy. Underway in every continent are major projects involving oil refineries, biodiesel, ethanol, wind power and more. A number of nations have begun to take a second look at nuclear power.

Wherever you find major projects involving infrastructure, energy and other aspects of revitalized economies, you are most likely to also discover SC&RA member companies. Many of the tasks undertaken by our members on these projects are truly awe-inspiring.

If your company has completed such projects, SC&RA would like to help you gain the recognition you deserve. Through our Hauling and Rigging Job of the Year Competitions, we show the world how our members dauntlessly meet an array of challenges. You will find rules and official entry forms at www.scranet.org

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