Watch the demolition (unbuilding) of the Grace and Pearman Bridges (old Cooper River Bridges)

The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. Schools and universities are all about learning - and learning is mostlly brain training. Learning is expedited by repetition and forgetting is expedited by infrequent use of learned skills or information. Tracking the building of the Ravenel Bridge and now tracking the demolition of the Grace and Pearman Bridges bring many questions to me and help me better understand the role Google and the Internet play in just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. More important, while experienced learners understand the learning process they often do not realize the destructive effects of the forgetting process. Over the course of the bridge project, I have access to only a few experts. Rather than a liability, this has become an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I realized that answers to questions encountered during my photo adventures were often only a Google-search away. Gene Stead, my first boss and I put these ideas together in a small essay: (see Restoring the Joy in Learning).

Google + Internet have become dependable extensions of my memory. Insights I gain from you and this project will find their way into the learning centers in our schools and universities.

Sun, 28 Aug 2005

August 28, 2005: My surprise: The skill and precision of demolition

I suppose I always thought that demolition was just another destructive process - that of removing components until all the structure was reduced to a pile of rubble. Was I ever wrong. Watching and talking with the Testa and Jay Cashman guys, I have found that there is skill, precision and a bit of art in their work. Skill to work the giant grapples, jackhammers and shears. Precision in removing segments of the road, cleaning the underlying I-beam surfaces (on the Grace and Pearman bridges) or cutting the rebar that formed the concrete supporting structures along the Grace and Pearman approaches and exits and art - somehow instinctively knowing what and where to apply their what I call, surgical tools.

Just as I learned of the precision (fractions of an inch) required to join the edge girders of the new Ravenel Bridge, I have learned from the Cashman and Testa workers that unbuilding requires similar precision. I was trained as an electrical engineer - where precision was part of the discipline. I suppose I was quite guilty of looking at my civil engineering colleagues as working with precision that was less demanding and "close enough for highway work". Was I ever wrong! I have totally reversed my understanding of demolition over the short month since the demolition of the Grace and Pearman bridges and approaches started. Another demonstration that even at my age (64 next week) - continued learning is possible and even necessary.

posted at: 08:35 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 16 Aug 2005

August 13, 2005: Another very pleasant surprise

Sparky Witte, a long time resident of Mt. Pleasant, grew up with the Grace and Pearman bridges. With the Ravenel bridge he has enjoyed being able to walk and bicycle across the bridge, admiring Mt. Pleasant to the east and Charleston to the west. He also can watch the unbuilding of the Grace and Pearman bridges.

Last night, Sparky sent me a group of photos of the July 30 events - the race and the old car parade. Moreover, he had taken quite a bit of time to track the demolition of the I-26 and Meeting Street overpasses. I was unable to stay for all the I-26 work Sunday morning and missed completely the Meeting Street overpass demolition. So here is part of Sparky's gift - a group of photos that provided timely tracking of the unbuilding process. I have added the Meeting Street work to the main page (tracking the progress over the past days) as well as to the Meeting St. page. His photos of the extraction of one set of supporting piers (and cap) as been added to the Engineering Challenges page.

Among his photos was one of him - posted above. Clearly, Sparky has brought new life to our web page, adding photo input to the engineering input I receive from many people. Sparky - you're the greatest!

posted at: 16:27 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 13 Aug 2005

August 13, 2005: A suggestion to Mayor Riley and the Transportation Board

During the construction of the Morrison Street on-ramp, bicycle and pedestrian walkway, there was an obstacle at the base of the Pearman bridge. A vertical support structure prevented paving a small section of the bicycle lane. A small wooden platform was built around the Pearman supports - a sort of detour.

With the demolition of the Pearman and Grace moving ahead (briskly), I understand that this platform will be removed when the vertical supports are removed, then bicycle lane paving will be completed. But what a perfect spot to place a few park benches so that walkers can stop, rest and contemplate not only our wonderful bridge, but life, the universe and everything. So what about this option, is it possible to modify the contract with Cashman-Testa to not remove the wooden platform and for the City to populate it with a few park benches - particularly useful to maturing adults (age > 60)?

posted at: 08:08 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 11 Aug 2005

August 11, 2005: A little weather and a little web page design.
During the construction of the Ravenel Bridge hurricane cables were installed to provide some lateral stability under high wind loads. At the same time, I was exploring how to harvest weather data from NOAA and the National Hurricane Center so that MUSC faculty, staff, students and worried parents of students (and perhaps worried parents of faculty / staff) could view primary data without visiting multiple web sites.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami provides RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds that are small, Internet accessible, data files that include links to weather advisories and storm projection graphics. From these links we wrote a short script to periodically download the updated advisories and satellite imagery and storm projections. Our MUSC site presents this and other harvested data on a single web page.

For the demolition project, I thought it would be useful to present a minimum set of data so all of us could follow the interactions between the weather and bridge demolition. Now, Satya Phanse, one of my guys in the IT Lab thought it would be useful to selectively display or hide my introductory remarks and worked out a short segment of javascript that enables you to display or hide web page segments.

I learn by example, so I copied Satya's example, adapted it to our bridge page and after 1 mistake (mine) - it works.

posted at: 08:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 10 Aug 2005

August 10, 2005: Demolition in full swing
While I always understood that building required more time than unbuilding I never really felt the difference. Tracking the construction of the Ravenel Bridge, in retrospect, was a leisurely activity. Tracking the demolition (I prefer unbuilding) of the Grace and Pearman structures (bridges as well as approaches) is turning into a twice daily affair - early morning (6am) and early evening (6pm). I'll keep this schedule as long as possible. The folks at Jay Cashman - Testa have been fantastic and helped me understand not only the demolition process but the sequencing required to manage demolition without shutting Charleston down for 6 months.

posted at: 09:24 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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