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Despite severe floods, CEMEX in Poland comes through in delivering Warsaw's new landmark

Date published: October 13, 2010

For over a year now, Warsaw has witnessed the birth and growth of the new North Bridge, an important causeway that is to connect the city's north-south route with the eastern by-pass highway. CEMEX in Poland, as the concrete provider for the bridge, has been closely monitoring the process to make sure top quality results are obtained.

The pillars and steel structure on the support P60

The pillars and steel structure on the support P60

Construction through the most severe winter in years followed by an overly rainy spring, required CEMEX to go the extra mile to make sure the project stayed on schedule after a winter stoppage on a flooded construction site.

When finished in late 2011, the bridge will be close to 800 meters long and stand over 9 meters above the Vistula River. It will carry two separate roads and a causeway for pedestrians, cyclists, and trams atop shared foundations and piles with separate pillars. Two of these supports-P40 and P50-stand right on the river, making their construction method different from that of other supports.

For support P40, the complexity of the soil required divers to go in and prepare the ground. P50 was initially easier to manage. Right when things looked to be running along, though, a hard winter hit, and ice floats accumulating in the river pushed construction to a stop.

Along came May, and with it the construction gathered momentum. In less than two weeks, nearly 500 tons of steel reinforcement were already in place. But, four days later a flood wave hit the region, resulting in the flooding of the chamber in which the P50 support was being constructed. When the water finally subsided, it had carried with it several tons of sand and caused corrosion bubbles in the not-yet-finished reinforcement. What was built had to be cut in pieces, removed, and the steel placing operation began again.

All of this never set CEMEX back. By the end of July, construction was back on track, keeping to the schedule.

Placing concrete for support P50

Placing concrete for support P50

An important concrete pour was about to begin when a new flood alert was issued. CEMEX reacted right away. The operation was pushed forward to begin 24 hours earlier and a technique was designed to quicken the concrete-mix placing process.

A third concrete plant was put into play-when originally only two were to be involved-and a third concrete pump was added as well. With the use of careful planning, several special concrete mixes with added retardant were created and then placed in layers in order to complete the pour before the water came in. The first three concrete layers had a 21-hour delay for initial setting time, followed by three layers with a 13-hour delay; the seventh layer delayed 9-hours to begin setting and the last two had no retarding admixture in them. This complex operation allowed all the poured concrete to begin setting at the same time.

Another challenge was that water was soon to come in and surround the structure, quickly cooling its outside and very probably causing fissures. Therefore, CEMEX technologists decided to use metallurgical cement, a rare choice for bridge construction that resulted in a flawless structure.

Due to the Polish CEMEX team and their quick response, careful planning, and quality control, 2,543 cubic meters of concrete mix were placed over a period of 37 hours. And when the new flood wave came in two days later, support P50 firmly stood its ground against the currents, ready for the project's next stage.

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