Geofoam Bridge Project Lightens the Load for 8th St Bridge

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8th Street Bridge Allentown - geofoam bridge project

Below we share the story of this GEOFOAM bridge project with locally sourced ICA-GEOFOAM.  When the 8th Street Bridge was originally built in 1912-1913 it was considered to be the largest concrete bridge in the world. This iconic 100 year old structure that cost a little over $500,000 to build had fallen into a state of disrepair and was in need of a major overhaul. The $18,000,000 revitalization project was awarded to IEW Construction Group by PennDot1

The bridge’s original construction consisted of 45,000 barrels of cement, 29,500 cubic yards of concrete, 20,000 tons of sand, 36,000 tons of crushed stone and more than half a ton of reinforcing steel. Among the materials required for the reconstruction project, the PennDOT specifications called for “light fill polystyrene” to lighten the load of this 2,650 foot bridge which rises 138 feet above the Little Lehigh Creek.

IEW, located in Trenton, NJ, turned to an Allentown company, Insulation Company of America (ICA), to fulfill this specification. ICA manufacturers expanded polystyrene (EPS) which, when used in block form, as in this application, is referred to as Geofoam. The lightweight attribute, along with its strength and stability, made ICA-Geofoam a cost saving decision for this project. The southbound portion of the bridge project is complete and IEW is ramping up to start the northbound. The work performed by IEW includes replacing the bridge deck, constructing new alcoves, repairing bridge piers, reconstructing roadway approaches, installing new ornamental lighting, concrete curbing, concrete sidewalk, protective fencing, pavement markings and signs. Being restored to its original beauty, the new construction is sure to last beyond the next century.

geofoam bridge project - 8th street bridge allentown, pa

Some interesting facts about the 8th Street GEOFOAM Bridge Project include:

  • When the project was originally started in 1900, it was going to be a steel truss structure. Final collaboration formed 10 years later between the Allentown Bridge Company and Harry Trexler, owner of Lehigh Portland Cement.
  • Opening ceremony in November 17, 1913 included a parade, speakers and performance by the Allentown Band.
  • It was a toll bridge for trolleys, pedestrians and automobiles until 1957. Toll costs in 1913: pedestrians – 1 cent, motorists – a nickel, bicycles – 2 cents.
  • Original name was the South Eighth Street Viaduct, renamed Albertus L Meyers2 Bridge in 1974, honoring a famous Allentown conductor, but is commonly referred to as the 8th Street Bridge by Allentownians.
  • Registered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

To learn more about this historical bridge, watch 8th Street Bridge 100 years old.

8th Street Bridge Postcard

“Tichnor Quality Views” linen postcard published by Tichnor Brothers (Boston) c. 1930-45; Eighth Street Bridge, Allentown, PA

1PennDOT has turned to ICA-Geofoam for other geotechnical applications including the Pierce Mill Road Project where Geofoam solved the unstable soil issue.

2Albertus L Meyers actually played the coronet in the opening ceremony as a young boy and spent his entire musical career in Allentown. He was 83 years old when the bridge was renamed in his honor.

Photos from the project, which will continue this year:

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Check back for updates!

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This article was posted on June 4, 2015, by Insulation Corporation of America (ICA) – a Women-Owned manufacturer of Geofoam and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), which is commonly but mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam™. ICA is located in Allentown, PA and services the entire Mid-Atlantic Region from Virginia to Maine to Ohio.