Flying High Over the
Colorado River


Sightseeing visitors at the Hoover Dam witnessed an unusual sight in April 2010 when a Putzmeister 52Z-Meter truck-mounted concrete boom pump was flown over 274 m above the Colorado River as crews began the final stages of the historical Colorado River Bridge project.

The boom pump, owned by Quinn Concrete Pumping, Inc. (Quinn) of Las Vegas, was carefully placed atop the partially constructed Colorado River Bridge using a cableway system developed specifically for the bridge project. The boom pump was used to place concrete on the arch portion of the bridge deck spanning 332 m. Now completed, the bridge connects Arizona and Nevada over the Black Canyon, approximately 457 m south of the Hoover Dam.

Begun in early 2005, the Colorado River Bridge is a joint venture of Obayashi Corporation and PSM Construction USA, Inc. (Obayashi/PSM JV). The bridge was built to alleviate traffic congestion on U.S. Highway 93, which used to cross the Hoover Dam to pass over the Colorado River.

By April 2010, most of the bridge was finished: the bridge approaches to the arch in Nevada and Arizona were complete, the concrete twin arches had been joined together, the precast columns on the arch had been set, and the steel girders were erected. It was time to start work on the 11 separate deck pours; each pour would be 27 m wide and approximately 37 m long.

Before even starting the job in 2005, the general contractor contacted Putzmeister directly for help in determining how and where to mount the placing booms and position the trailer pumps for all portions of the project. They needed detailed input in order to make the precise calculation that would allow the job to be carried out with the utmost safety and efficiency.

“We called Putzmeister right away to discuss the complicated project, and what our possible concrete placing solutions would be,” says Wes Pollnow, construction manager for Obayashi/PSM JV. “We felt more confident preparing for this by utilizing their complete systems approach.”

“The general contractor worked diligently with us and the concrete pump sub-contractor to determine the exact calculations, balances, picking points, and appropriate counterweights to ensure everything went off smoothly and safely,” says Alan Woods, Putzmeister field service technician. “Wes, project engineer Terry Pawlowski and team had everything planned out precisely.”

Obayashi/PSM JV selected Quinn as the concrete pump sub-contractor. Throughout the Colorado River Bridge project, Quinn supplied both pump operators and their own concrete pumping and placing equipment. Earlier in the project, the company had been on site to place concrete for the footings and arch foundation.

Because of the large area each deck pour covered, which had to be poured symmetrically on both sides, the decision was made to use Quinn’s 52Z-Meter semi-trailer-mounted concrete boom pump. They had been using their own Putzmeister MX 32/36Z placing boom previously on the arches and for shorter-distance pours, but now needed equipment with more reach. With the 52Z-Meter’s impressive 52 m vertical and 48 m horizontal reach, handling the 37 m deck pours proved to be no problem. The challenge laid elsewhere: flying the boom pump up to the deck, pumping in tight quarters, balancing deck pours on the bridge, and pumping concrete to the 52Z.

Transporting the boom pump to location on the deck was handled with precision via the cableway system that had been used successfully throughout the project to deliver materials and equipment. However, before the boom pump could be flown to the deck, the crew had to address space requirements on the bridge.

Putzmeister took an innovative approach to solving this issue. To save on flyweight and reduce the unit’s footprint, the boom pump was detached from the tractor. The boom pump’s versatile semi-trailer design, with a separate diesel engine, allowed it to be easily detached, flown to the bridge deck, and then attached to a specially-designed concrete counterweight that simulated the weight of the tractor and took up less space.

“The 52Z was basically being used like a placing boom,” says Alan Woods.

Because the arch of the bridge had to be loaded symmetrically, the boom pump and counterweight were set up in the middle of the bridge. The geometry of the arch itself would change and would be more difficult to control if the bridge was not loaded symmetrically.

To ensure everything stayed balanced, one deck section was poured on one side of the boom pump, then the boom pump was lifted and turned, and another deck section was poured on that side. The boom pump was then lifted and turned again to continue the pour in this manner, going back and forth throughout all 11 pours.

The purpose for the boom pump being lifted and turned for each side’s pours was because the pipeline leading from the trailer pump to the hopper of the 52Z-Meter would be in the way of placing the concrete if the boom pump was not lifted and turned each time.

The trailer pump was also moved back and forth for each side’s pours and connected to pipeline.

Although Obayashi/PSM JV had used a concrete ready mix supplier earlier in the project, in late 2007 they began operating their own concrete batch plant. For the deck pours, they used a harsh 310 bar mix with fibers in it to help control cracking on the deck. Because this was such a tough dry mix, using the right trailer pump was crucial.

Another challenge was how far horizontally the concrete would need to be pumped. The crew decided to use Quinn’s BSA 14000 to pump a distance that started at 213 m and reached a maximum of 290 m through pipeline, plus another 52 m through the 52Z-Meter.

With the highest pressures and outputs available, the high-performance trailer pump easily maintained a continuous flow of the harsh mix and facilitated the long-distance concrete pumping.

“First we pumped through the pipeline and into the hopper of the 52Z-Meter, which then pumped the rest of the way,” explains Mr. Pollnow. “The trailer pump really provided the power we needed to push the concrete up and out to its final destination. It averaged 57 m3/h and at one point reached 100 cubic yards per hour 76 m3/h. The trailer pump provided a smooth, controllable output of concrete because of its free flow hydraulic technology. Its fully adjustable volume control allows for very slow pumping while retaining full concrete pressure.”

The trailer pump pumped the concrete at 280 bar and the 52Z at 150 bar.

Source: Putzmeister America, Inc.

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