BRENTWOOD -- Drivers on Highway 4 here have grown accustomed to seeing construction work, but the sight of trucks carrying oversized loads and an extremely large crane forced some to do a double-take this week.
Contractors with CC Myers and Bragg Crane were using heavy machinery Tuesday to add bridge girders over Sand Creek. The bridge will one day carry southbound traffic on Highway 4, part of the widening of the road from two to four lanes from Sand Creek Road to just north of Lone Tree Way
"This is a very big deal for us; it's going to open my city up," said Mayor Bob Taylor of the progress, admiring a 550-ton crane as it held one of the 50-ton support beams while workers steadied it into place.
In all, 20 girders, made locally by Antioch-based KIE-CON Inc., will span the creek.
After installing five girders Tuesday, the rest are expected to be put in place Wednesday.
The girders, about 84 feet in length, are held by abutments on both sides of the creek that are supported by piles 40 feet deep into the ground, where they are stuck in bedrock, said Amin AbuAmara,¿ senior engineer with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.
Unlike bridge work over Lone Tree Way, Sand Creek Road and San Jose Avenue, engineers choose to use girders because the creek is an environmentally sensitive area, AbuAmara said.
Temporary supports have been put in place at Lone Tree and Sand Creek and will soon be erected at San Jose. The contractor plans to start pouring the concrete deck at the Lone Tree intersection next week, weather permitting, AbuAmara said.
Work on the $32 million project to widen Highway 4 through Brentwood, including adding onramps and offramps at Sand Creek Road, is going faster than anticipated when it started in June.
Though it is still expected to be completed by spring of 2014, AbuAmara says work is a couple months ahead of schedule.
"(The progress) is going at an amazing rate. They've already got the widening going and two of the bridges started. Hopefully, the weather stays dry and it continues," Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, said.
Taylor is excited because traffic on Highway 4 through Brentwood often backs up for miles, particularly during rush hour. The tie-ups leave commuters blocks away from home after a long drive, but stuck in gridlocked traffic for 15 to 20 minutes.
"This will improve quality of life. Drivers aren't going to be stuck sitting behind windshields," he said. "There are a lot of residents who are excited about this and the progress they can see each day. It's a buzz in Brentwood."
The improvements will also help with safety concerns on the bypass and create jobs, officials said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.