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 20, 2005:
Tooth Extraction and Root Canal jobs on the Pearman roadway.

Learning Links

I continue to be impressed with the skill and art of these Testa surgeons and dentists. Here is the story of tooth extraction and a root canal procedure. It starts by a walk from the Mt. Pleasant side of the Pearman Bridge.

The basic procedure is to cut the concrete roadway into 7 foot strips, remove them and then remove the underlying girders. Here is a segment of roadway being placed on the forklift (driven by Jim) by the 345 grapple, Michael (whose wife Tina continues to encourage me with these stories).

Here Michael's 345 (right) releases the concrete segment onto Jim's mega-forklift (left) and off Jim goes to the recycling center at the base of the bridge (Coleman Blvd).

Jim gets a lot of practice driving backwards

Here is Richie - one of the skilled surgeons, who, with a torch, can cut anything

and Nugget (Mike) who has yet to tell me his story

The extraction process starts with Mike's jack - which hammers a channel along the length of the expansion joint

and Richie looking on - To see this live, click here (20 Mb quicktime video)

After the channel is prepared, Richie suits up for a bit of cutting while Jim enjoys the comfort of his forklift

Torch (unlit) in hand, Richie walks out on the right girder to cut elements that bond it to the bridge structure

while Nugget is cutting away on the left side

All the time - Pio is watching and in communication with the home office

Richie cutting a crossbeam

Nugget is making the first cut to sever a crossbeam

and here, Nugget is making the 2nd cut to sever the brace between the two girders

while Richie is making a July 4th display with his cutting

Next, Nugget cuts the expansion joint and literally extracts a tooth from the expansion element. Another tooth is extracted and this divides the roadway girder structure into three components.

Meanwhile, Michael and Jim are just chillin' a bit while the cutting continues.

And as you can see, Pio is holding one of the teeth - root and all

and a rare photo of Michael, Frank and Pio. Jim takes better photos than I do

Here are the middle and right girder segments - what we refer to as the root canal

and to add to the entertainiment two F-somethings have their landing gear down - I suppose to land somewhere

Michael with his grapple, reaches under the expansion joint and pulls it up

Oops - it did not want to cooperate - so just as in the dental chair - a bit of investigation is in order.

Richie goes back down to cut a remaining bolt - that I suppose was a surprise

Richie watches as Michael takes another pull - and

up comes the middle pair of girders

now Michael pulls the girders backwards and onto the roadway

and gently places it on the road. For a video of the extraction process click here (30 Mb quicktime video)

This is now what the girder structure looks like with one root canal gone

Nugget uncouples a shackle tied to one set of cables from the girder pair while Michael is driving the grappel and Jim is driving the mega-forklife

here Nugget is removes the other shackle that uncouples the other cable

and Jim drags it down to the Mt. Pleasant reprocessing plant. Lots of practice with backwards driving

a bit more backing up

and a nice view of the Ravenel Bridge

and deposits it in the recycling and reprocessing plant. Note the stacks of 7 foot roadway segments. Here concrete is separated from rebar, girders are cut and a lot of other stuff that minimizes that waste.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer