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Posted: August 25, 2017
Last modified: October 3, 2017

To construct overpasses and bridges across one of the many lakes dotting the Orlando area, workers must build support structures in the middle of the water.

The I-4 Ultimate team relies on barge cranes to get that job done, as is the case on the west side of Lake Ivanhoe. There, the setup consists of a 220-ton huge crane placed upon a 100-foot-long barge. Two small skiffs guide the barge to its proper spot on the lake where it is secured in place. While the concept seems simple enough, there are rigorous safety procedures to protect both workers and wildlife.

Moreover, the barge is not just a simple floating platform. It is a self-contained work site that supports a huge crane and holds equipment and material. It’s staffed by construction crew members, who are trained in water safety and rescue and must wear approved flotation devices on the barge and on their short boat rides to and from the waterborne work site.

“Working on the water takes a special level of concentration and forethought,” said Area 3 Construction Manager Kevin Moynihan, who is an experienced marine-construction professional. “The movement of the water, the weather, the fragile ecosystem and logistics are all very important considerations when we arrive to work every day,”

The main work of the crane is to hoist piles (heavy steel or concrete pillars) into place and then hold the pile-driving mechanisms that push them deep enough into the lake bottom to create support structures for bridges. A floating work site requires other special precautions. For example, crews deploy what are called turbidity or silt curtains. These are something like sheets of filters that hang down in the water to hold back silt particles and keep them from moving beyond the construction area. The curtains also have brightly colored flotation devices on top to alert boaters.

“Our barge is a fully functional and self-contained work site, but sometimes we have to show a little more patience than our co-workers on land,” Moynihan said. “Weather, winds and even birds, ducks and marine life can sometimes slow us down or make us work a little harder.”