Work began Thursday morning to install the first of 42 giant girders that will support the road bed of the new Tuolumne Street bridge in downtown Fresno.
The bridge will carry traffic on Tuolumne Street over the Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks and over new high-speed rail tracks through the city.
Crews for Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the prime contractor for California High-Speed Rail Authority’s first 32-mile construction section in Fresno and Madera, are using a large crane to move seven girders into place each day.
The first seven girders going up over G Street are 149 feet long, six feet high and weigh about 166,000 pounds. The rest of the girders for the bridge span range from 94 feet to 149 feet in length. The steel-reinforced, pre-cast concrete girders are being trucked to the work site from Lathrop, in San Joaquin County.
Work on the bridge is ahead of schedule, said Toni Tinoco, a spokeswoman for the rail authority. The structure replaces an old Tuolumne Street bridge that did not provide enough vertical clearance for the high-speed trains and the overhead catenary, or electrical lines, that will provide the power to the all-electric trains.
Once the bridge is completed this fall, it will serve two-way traffic on Tuolumne Street. The old bridge was one-way eastbound.
The nearby Stanislaus Street bridge, one block to the north and serving one-way westbound traffic, will be demolished after the new bridge is opened. It will not be replaced.
The work is part of the $1 billion construction contract awarded to Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons about three years ago. The segment was originally for 29 miles from the eastern edge of Madera to the southern fringe of Fresno. It was extended north by about three miles earlier this year.