A Pittsfield-based company has been awarded a $70 million contract in the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.
Unistress Corporation has already begun hiring designers and will bring on skilled laborers, heavy equipment operators and truck drivers. Perri Petricca is the company’s president.
“We’re going to be holding job fairs starting June 23rd looking for over 100 new people and those jobs will be starting shortly thereafter,” said Petricca.
Berkshire County’s unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, higher than the state average of 5.6 percent. Heather Boulger heads the county’s Regional Employment Board. She looked into the unemployment insurance claims figures for the past six months.
“About 12.4 percent were from the construction/extraction industries and several from grounds and plant maintenance and architecture and engineering,” Boulger said. “So I am confident that Berkshire County has the skilled workforce that’s going to be needed to fill those 100 jobs or very close to it at least.”
The contract calls for production of roughly 6,000 precast concrete deck panels, which will serve as the driving surface on the new bridge, says Petricca.
“We will be manufacturing the pieces here and trucking them over to the Port of Coeymans just south of Albany where we will be loading them on barges to be delivered to the job site,” Petricca explained. “The new bridge is over a mile long stretching across the Hudson River. So the bridge is going to be constructed off the water by barge-mounted cranes taking the pieces that we produced off other barges and erecting it on the steel superstructure.”
In order to be in production by July, Unistress will build 18 large accordion-style tents at its Cheshire Road facility. The tents will cover production areas, or forms, that will heat and cure the concrete. Petricca says in the long run, its Pittsfield location may expand with actual buildings, but right now, there’s not enough time.
“So we are going to be investing about $6 million into the expansion for this project,” Petricca said. “The new forms, a lot new storage areas and site work that we are redoing, new cranes, new concrete mixers and expanding our concrete batching facilities. There is a lot of what we will be able to continue to build on in terms of infrastructure and capital investments that the Tappan Zee project has made possible.”
Work at Unistress will continue for some time as the bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2018 at a total cost of $3.9 billion, the largest bridge project in New York State’s history. In May, President Obama called for the need to invest in infrastructure from the banks of the Hudson with the Tappan Zee Bridge in the background.
“The bottom line, Tarrytown, is America doesn’t stand still," Obama said. "There’s work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. Some of them are here and they’re already on the job doing the work. We’re proud of them.”
A $1.6 billion federal loan will help finance the build, overseen by Tappan Zee Constructors. The cable-stayed bridge, titled the New New York Bridge, will be 3.1 miles long with eight traffic lanes, four breakdown lanes, pedestrian and bike lanes and the ability to handle light or commuter rail. The idea is build to a structure that won’t require major maintenance for 100 years. Petricca says that’s an exciting venture.
“Since that’s relatively new, the standards for building a 100-year-old bridge are really being developed as we go,” Petricca said. “So we are working with some of the biggest engineering firms in the world designing pieces that are going to have 100-year life without any major maintenance. So it’s really fascinating to be right on the cutting edge of design for this product.”
Unistress worked on the Big Dig in Boston from 1997 to 2005, the Route 36 Highlands Bridge in New Jersey and the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Maine. This marks the company’s largest bridge project to date. It’s also the company’s largest overall contract in its 46-year history. Before that, the pinnacle was a $55 million project on the new Yankee Stadium.