High Steel superload leaves Williamsport for Tappan Zee replacement bridge in New York

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette One of two steel girders.

Two superloads, carrying over 180 tons of steel girders, departed Williamsport early Tuesday morning headed for New York and the largest infrastructure bridge project in the nation.

“This is the largest job High Steel has ever done,” said Ronnie Medlock, vice president of technical services for High Steel Structures LLC on West Fourth Street.

Finishing up a three-year project valued at $120 million, High Steel sent off its last two superloads of steel girders for the construction of the New New York Bridge, being built to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.

Medlock said a superload is “a load that is so large it requires a police escort.”

Roughly 90 tons each, the superloads are 12 feet deep and about half a football field long, according the company. This will be the last superload sent to the bridge, but other smaller loads will continue to be sent until it is finished in the spring of 2018.

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette One of two steel girders.

That will tap out the project at a total of roughly 50,000 tons of steel the company has already sent to the bridge.

According to Medlock, the New New York Bridge reconstruction costs roughly $3.7 billion and is the largest infrastructure rebuilding project in the United States.

Preparations and inspections by Pennsylvania State Police began at roughly 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. The two loads departed with their police escorts at 7 a.m. They lumbered up West Fourth Street toward Newberry where they were to access the highway.

The trucks are specialty rigs equipped with load-bearing jeeps in the front and steerable dollies in the rear. An escort driver controls the dolly by remote control to navigate curves, corners, tolls, and other obstacles the superload may encounter en route.

Dave Madonna, a truck driver with High Transit, a sister company to High Steel, is transporting one of the loads, but he is no stranger to superloads. A 38-year truck-driving veteran, Madonna said he doesn’t get nervous for these big trips, but he said preparation is key to making sure nothing goes wrong.

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette Employees for High Steel Structures gather to watch as the company prepares the shipment.

“We have to worry about the load and being safe on the highway,” Madonna said.

It will take the drivers two days to get from Williamsport to Port of Coeymans, New York, Medlock said. From there the steel girders will be loaded onto barges and floated down the Hudson River to the bridge.

The entire route was mapped out before the trucks left, and the company sent out a scout vehicle to drive it and make sure loads of its size could adequately pass, Medlock said. He added that at one point along the journey, the loads will go through a toll both with only 1 inch to spare on either side.

Medlock said the company was able to add 200 jobs for the project since it began in 2014.

High Steel is an affiliate of High Steel Industries Inc, which was founded in Lancaster. It has a second location in Williamsport.

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette Ronnie Medlock, vice president of Technical Services for High Steel Structures.

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette One of two steel girders, 12 feet deep.

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette One of two steel girders, 12 feet deep.