Case Studies & Research

Case Study

Walt Whitman Bridge and Corcon, Inc.

Blasting and painting one of the nation’s largest bridges. While accommodating 120,000 vehicles a day. And 2 peregrine falcons.

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Location: Between Philadelphia, PA and Gloucester City, NJ

Bridge completion: 1957

Designer: Othmar Ammann

Client: Delaware Port Authority

Industrial Painting Contractor: Corcon, Inc., Youngstown, Ohio

Chief Engineer: Mike Venuto

Project cost: More than $57,000,000

Paint required: 50,000 gallons

Scope of Work: Completely blast clean and paint the suspension spans, interior and exterior towers, and the girders and diaphragms supporting the anchorage decks; paint the main cables and suspender ropes; and perform structural steel repairs.

Named after poet Walt Whitman, who spent his final years in nearby Camden, this magnificent seven-lane bridge spans over 2 1/4 miles (11,981 feet). It’s a vital link across the Delaware River, between Philadelphia, PA and Gloucester City, NJ, for the 120,000 vehicles that rely on it each day. Containing 57,674 tons of steel, it was one of the first bridges of the interstate era and is the tenth largest suspension bridge in the U.S.

Corcon, Inc., an IUPAT industry partner, was selected to completely blast clean and paint the entire bridge, including all towers, cables and ropes, for the first time since construction was completed in 1957.

“We would never have gone after this project without our high-caliber IUPAT workforce.”

Lou Lyras, CEO
Corcon, Inc

The Challenge

More than 2.3 million sq. ft. of original lead paint had to be safely removed, and sandblasting uncovered a great deal of deterioration that wasn’t apparent at first. Then, the bridge needed to be completely painted while staying open to two-way traffic. Annual hurricane seasons were also a big concern over the three-year project. And a pair of nesting peregrine falcons, who had made the bridge their home, needed to be protected.

The Solution

A team of up to 100 specialized workers, including CAS-certified IUPAT painters, worked on the bridge every day but Sunday. A 325,000 sq. ft. safety platform was built, along with chain-link scaffolding. To protect both workers and bridge traffic during lead removal, a customized, massive containment system with an elaborate air filtration system was created. Along with tarps, steel deck sheets were used for sturdier containment that was not at the mercy of high winds, allowing work to proceed regardless of weather. Ironworkers were subcontracted for the extensive steel repairs. As for the falcons, they were safely encouraged to change nests each year to the side of the bridge away from the work.

The IUPAT Industry Partner Advantage

“Using an IUPAT workforce assured that this project’s unique technological and safety challenges could be met,” says Lou Lyras, CEO of Corcon, Inc. “We needed a required number of Coating Application Specialists (CAS) to even bid on this job, and Corcon had them because, as IUPAT contractors, we attract the top industrial painters. I’m proud to be a card-carrying IUPAT member.”

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