Concrete Segmental Showing Why It Is The Future

Editorial by Eugene C. Figg, Jr., President, ASBI(1997-1998), Figg Engineering Group

Editorial – Reprinted from Summer 1998 Edition:
Over the past year, segmental concrete has shown strong momentum in the bidding arena with decisive margins in head-to-head competition with steel and other concrete bridge structures. This can be viewed as a further indication that the advantages of segmental construction are becoming more apparent to Contractors and Owners. Also, it is significant that approximately six Contractors are participating in the bid process on most segmental construction.

Three recent design/build bridges were won based on segmental concrete designs, the most recent being the 8.4-mile bridge for mass transit at JFK Airport.

Three alternate design bid cases in point over the past twelve months include the Bath-Woolwich Bridge in Maine, the Sailboat Bridge in Oklahoma, and the I-93 Viaducts and Ramps in Boston.

When bids were taken in July 1997 on the 906-meter (2,972 feet) crossing of the Kennebec River in Bath-Woolwich, Maine, the segmental concrete proposal of $46.6 million was $4.7 million below the steel bid of $51.3 million, a saving of 9.2%. It is noteworthy that the Maine Department of Transportation had established a scoring system in which the lowest ratio of Bid Price to Evaluation Score would be the winning bidder, leaving the possibility that the low dollar bid would not win the contract. The segmental alternate amassed an evaluation score of 91.87 out of a possible 100, to a score of 75.66 for the steel alternate, thus winning on all counts.

The alternate design bid competition for the Sailboat Bridge in Oklahoma in August 1997 featured concrete segmental and concrete bulb-tees. With relatively short typical spans of 37.1 meters (121 feet) for this twin 928-meter (3,044 feet) bridge, concrete bulb-tees have normally been dominant. Five of the six bidders apparently thought that would continue to be the case, but the winning segmental bid of $20 million was $1.1 million (4.2%) below the lowest bulb-tee bid.

The bids on the I-93 Viaducts and Ramps of the Central Artery Project in Boston are indicative of the strength of concrete segmental today in competitive Northeast markets. The bridge portion of the October 1997 bids came in at $79.2 million for concrete segmental, some $27.1 million (25.5%) below the steel bid of $106.4 million. Four of the five bidders chose concrete segmental.

These alternate design bid examples indicate the competitive advantages of concrete segmental bridges. Two of these projects are in the Northeast where steel has been most widely used in the past. The future looks bright for Owners in all areas of the U.S. to have concrete segmental bridges that save money, provide aesthetics and have a long life.

The competitive bidding and design/build results of this past year have been a great way to celebrate ASBI’s 10th Anniversary.

Editorial Note:
U.S. and International engineering media have given extensive, in my experience unprecedented, coverage of the untimely death of Eugene C. Figg, Jr., P.E. Gene's achievements clearly caught the attention and imagination of a broad audience both inside and outside the bridge engineering community. He was the central figure in the formation of the American Segmental Bridge Institute, and was among the most enthusiastic supporters of ASBI activities for the past 14 years. Since information on Gene's life and accomplishments has been so widely distributed, this editorial from the summer 1998 edition of Segments is reprinted as an ASBI remembrance, in his own words, of the enthusiasm and commitment he brought to the design and construction of “...concrete segmental bridges that save money, provide aesthetics and have a long life.”