Benjamin Franklin Bridge PATCO Track Rehabilitation
Philadelphia, PA to Camden, NJ
Project Highlights / Scope of Work:
- Replaced entire track system including two and a half miles of rail and 9,000 timber ties
- Constructed eighty signal / electrical enclosures
- Upgraded electrical system including train signal controls and fiber optics
- Installed over thirty miles of signal, power and communications cable
- Replaced / repaired structural steel support members including 120 tons of new steel
- Blasted and painted structural support steel exposed by removal of track
- Introduced and helped implement redesigns to improve construction
At the time of its opening in 1926, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge, spanning the Delaware River, connecting Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. This $103,000,000 project, executed by joint venture partners Railroad Construction Company, Inc. and Iron Bridge Constructors, involved the rehabilitation of the bridge’s entire track system.
The joint venture introduced and helped implement redesigns to improve construction. The original design suggested construction 80 ft. segments of the track system and support structure and installing temporary rail. After months of careful planning, the design was changes to complete 400 ft. segments at a time and installing permanent rail. No temporary rail was used.
Two outages were scheduled, taking the tracks out of service. A sixty day closure of the south tracks followed by a fifty day closure of the north tracks was required to perform extensive repairs and completely replace the tracks. All existing track was removed enabling the repair and replacement of steel stringers and appurtenances, previously inaccessible under and behind the rail system. New concrete supports were formed and poured. Sand blasting and painting was performed on the newly exposed structural support steel and 120 tons of new steel was installed and painted. Through strong collaboration and coordination of crews and activities between the joint venture, DRPA and PATCO, the north side was completed three days ahead of schedule, earning an incentive payment from DRPA.
The new track system includes over 9,000 new timber ties and two and a half miles of new rail. Eighty signal/electrical enclosures were constructed and more than thirty miles of signal, power and communications cable was laid. The entire electrical system was upgraded and modernized including train signal controls, high voltage wiring, fiber optics and circuits, new conduit and relocated lighting.
The removal and replacement of timber ties presented a challenge but resulted in a new and innovative concept that utilized a portable conveyor system on the bridge, eliminating the bundling of timbers and loading out with heavy equipment. The conveyor method removed timber operations from the critical path and allowed blasting and painting to begin earlier than planned.
These tracks were originally put into service in 1936 and began carrying PATCO trains in 1969. Today, the PATCO Speedline operates twenty-four hours a day and transports over 10,000,000 passengers per year. These much needed improvements enable PATCO and Delaware River Port Authority to provide a safer, more efficient commute for the tens of thousands who use this mass transit system every day.
Uniquely complex and an intricate blend of multiple construction disciplines, DRPA and PATCO consider this project to be a model for future jobs, using a collaborative, goal-specific approach.
"The Ben Franklin Bridge Track Rehab project is a testament to what can be accomplished with an experienced, knowledgeable and safety minded contractor."
DRPA Chief Engineer
Railway Track & Structures February 2016
This project received the 45th Annual American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey (ACECNJ) Engineering Excellence award in 2016. The annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) competition recognizes and celebrates engineering achievements that demonstrate the highest degree of skill and ingenuity among firms throughout the state of New Jersey.