The Benjamin Franklin Bridge (BFB) supports seven vehicular lanes that provides a direct route from Philadelphia, PA to Camden, NJ for over 100,000 vehicles per day and rail commuters via the PATCO Speedline on the outboard sides over the Delaware River. The bi-state, 1,750-foot link also features two elevated pedestrian sidewalks along both sides of the bridge. Originally constructed to augment the ferries that cross the Delaware River, the suspension bridge was coated with lead-based paint during construction in the mid 1920s by David A. Salkind, a commercial painting company also responsible for painting the Golden Gate Bridge.
The bridge has since been re-painted several times since its original coat, most recently in 1989. In 2005, it was time for a fresh look.
Urban was brought on to refresh the bridge. We got to work preparing the BFB’s surface for a fresh coat by removing lead-based paint by propelling expendable abrasives or recyclable steel-grit abrasives through a concentrated stream of compressed air to remove lead-based paint down to bare metal. This method was used to clean the steel component surfaces of the Camden and Philadelphia towers. Hazardous waste generated during paint removal operations was collected, transported, and disposed of in compliance with federal, state, and local environmental or other applicable regulations.
Following surface preparation, a new exterior coating system was applied that consisted of an organic zinc rich primer (stripe coat and full coat), full intermediate coat, and a urethane finish coat (stripe coat and full coat). The new interior coating system consisted of moisture cure urethane aluminum primer and a moisture cure urethane aliphatic finish coat to increase the durability of the new paint.
As part of the construction inspection/management project, the existing concrete crosswalks were removed and replaced with new steel gratings. Urban’s services also included reviewing and approving shop drawings and product submittals.
A critical component was erecting protective shielding, netting, and containment to protect workers and the public from the lead-based paint (pictured below). All areas where the paint was removed were fully enclosed using impermeable containment materials with seams completely sealed. The system was designed so the bridge’s towers and the containment could support the equipment, materials, and workers in addition to being able to withstand adverse weather conditions. Filtered exhaust ventilation provided airflow through the work area and controlled emissions for workers and the public. Specially designed shielding platforms were constructed to protect the driving lanes, pedestrian sidewalks, and Port Authority Transit Corporation's (PATCO) tracks.
With the refreshed look of the structure, commuters now experience a more aesthetically appealing travel across the 90 + year-old bridge. The new coat of paint also increased safety for pedestrians along the crosswalks.