Wissehr Electrical Contractors


Joe Page Bridge

Mission Impossible

Opened in 1931, Joe Page Bridge in Hardin, Illinois, is the world’s largest vertical-lift bridge. Crossing the Illinois River, it links Calhoun and Greene counties. Its lift span is 308 ft., 9 in. long and weighs 800 tons. A vertical-lift bridge uses a system of counterweights and cables to raise an inner section. This section remains horizontal as it is raised upward, allowing river traffic to pass beneath the bridge.

To repair its aging systems, the bridge underwent an almost total re-fabrication – replacing the driving surface at the lift span and all the mechanical and electrical systems, removing the lead-based paint, applying new paint and performing structural steel repair. In addition, the existing control room, located in the middle of the bridge, was converted to a machine room, and a new control room was built on the west side of the bridge.

Achieving the Impossible

However, the challenges seemed almost insurmountable. During the entire project, one lane of the bridge remained open to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Managers of the bridge closed the bridge to river traffic for only two weeks. To successfully complete their carefully prepared project plan, Wissehr’s professional team spent many weeks before the project shutdown preparing and prefabricating, including loading certain materials on barges and hoisting them into place.

Electricians installed the following: all new motors, which were controlled by variable frequency drives; a new navigation lighting system; a freeze protection system on all potable water and sewage; warning and barrier gates; traffic signals with special flashing strobes; advanced warning beacons; a new control room with audible alarms and closed circuit TV system so the operator can effectively manage boat, vehicular and pedestrian traffic; a grounding electrode system, which had to be driven into the river bed below the surface of the water at the piers.

Now the bridge is not only updated, but it’s improved and ready to serve the next generations of travelers.

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