Hauling company moves massive bridge sections over NYC streets

W. J. Casey, a heavy hauler for more than 100 years, brought traffic to a halt on New York City’s busy FDR Drive during a recent job.

The Union, N.J.-based hauling, rigging and crane service company transported a new walkway for the Williamsburg Bridge, which will link Brooklyn and Manhattan. The walkway consisted of 24 bright red steel sections, each weighing 100 tons and measuring 120 feet long, 28 feet wide and 20 feet high.

Casey’s task was to move the sections from the construction site at the Red Hook Marine Terminal in Brooklyn to the East River for a barge trip to the staging area in Manhattan. After that, sections were offloaded onto huge Goldhofer dollies pulled by Kenworth T800s for the land-based trip to the bridge. The movers had to be ready when police stopped traffic on FDR Drive in the middle of the night on Saturdays.

“We had 15-minute windows when we could move the sections across the highway, two sections at a time,” says Jimmy V. Biondi, a co-owner of Casey. “There was a big penalty if the work was not done on time. We actually got them moved across in under 10 minutes each time. It was quite a circus though.”

After the jaunt across the road, Casey employees hauled the sections onto the bridge deck, where ironworkers hoisted them onto pedestals. The bridge was closed on weekends during the six weeks of the project.

When power companies, utilities and construction company contractors in the Northeast need to haul transformers, generators and other heavy equipment, Casey is at the top of their Rolodex. The company has been heavy hauler extraordinaire for much of its 102-year history. It has hauled transformers ranging from five tons to 500 tons, equipment for petroleum refineries and other large loads, such as the bridge walkway.

The Biondis start planning these jobs months, sometimes years, in advance. They must
get approvals from a myriad of governmental agencies and companies, ranging from a state’s department of transportation and highway patrol to local cable, power and phone utilities that have to move lines to accommodate loads that sometimes exceed 19 feet. “All of these jobs are tricky, and you’ll get into trouble if you think any of them are easy,” says Jim Biondi Jr., the company’s other co-owner and Jimmy’s cousin.

On some highway moves, Casey has to get creative to comply with state requirements. For example, when a state prohibits a load of a certain size from passing over a bridge deck, the company constructs a bridge over the bridge using steel beams and rubber mats. “Once, we had to go into a river bed and place supports to shore up a bridge before we could drive over it,” Jim Jr. says.

To accomplish the walkway project, W.J. Casey presented Kenworth a significant engineering challenge. The company needed a truck not only powerful enough to haul gross weights of about 400,000 pounds, but also that was compact and maneuverable.

“One of owner Jim Biondi Jr.’s requirements was that the truck be as short
and maneuverable as possible, since every inch counts when you are hoisting
bridge beams or transformers on jobsites,” said Stephan Olsen, Kenworth application engineer. “The challenge facing Kenworth engineers was to fit a complex drivetrain into the shortest possible wheelbase.”

Kenworth engineers started with a C500B 6-by-4 chassis and a Caterpillar C-15 engine. Next, they designed an Allison heavy-duty, seven-speed transmission into the truck’s chassis.

The engineers also selected Kenworth’s massive 1,520-square-inch radiator and a high-capacity oil to water transmission cooler to dissipate heat generated by the transmission retarder and the Cat engine.

“This combination produced excellent drivetrain reduction for slow speed hauling and maneuvering, yet also allowed the truck to reach legal highway speeds, an important capability when running back home empty, after completing a haul,” Olsen said.