Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

September 11, 2005: 4pm
Removal of the Pearman Roadway and supporting girders

This is where the action is near the base of the Pearman on-off ramps. Testa is removing panels of the concrete roadway and some of the supporting girders (See the photos at the end for a view from below which shows the area where the roadway and girders have been removed and the work area.

And on my way to the worksite - I find Michael (on the left - see the non-reflective sunglasses) and a colleague (right) cutting a bracket.

Here is part of our team: Nugget, Michael, Pio, Jim and Richie. The main idea is that this team removes the concrete roadway - 7 feet at a time and then the supporting girders - 2 at a time.

Basically, Rich (of Concrete Cutting and Breaking, Inc.) cuts across the roadway from edge barrier to edge barrier. Note the harness and restraining cable he is wearing.

Here Rich is cutting toward the opposite edge.

After cutting, a grapple is used to rotate the 7 foot segment up and move them off the site. This is better characterized in the night photos below. Here are stacks of 7 foot segments that have been moved from the Pearman to the base of the approach. Here they are loaded on trucks and removed.

From below, it is easier to see what is happening. Here the roadway and the supporting longitudinal girders have been removed from the far part of the bridge. The cross members and edge girders remain in place.

Two barges are tied down to catch any small debris from the cutting operation above

Then the grapple (Probably Michael doing his thing) lifts the segment up. Here is a sequence from below showing the rotation of 1/2 a 7 foot segment being rotated up and into a position for removal. The girders, parallel to the roadway, are later cut and removed. Look under the red X and green arrows and the missing support girders are apparent - compared with the darker area.

Here you can see the beginning of rotating the left segment up

and a bit more rotation

and a bit more rotation

until all that remains are the supporting girders which will be cut and removed

The right concrete panel will then be removed and then another seven foot segment until the cross beam is reached. Then the supporting girders will be cut and removed.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer