EXPANDING UPON A RICH LEGACY TO CONTINUE BUILDING GREAT THINGS

Gilded Age titan JP Morgan knew that adaptability was the key to success in an evolving world. This was the vision he espoused when he created the institutional foundation from which American Bridge (AB) was built in 1900. AB became Pennsylvania’s largest employer after Morgan constructed the world’s largest steel fabrication and manufacturing facility, to become the industry leader in the fabrication and erection of complex structures across the globe.

“AB’s success over the last century is remarkable,” said Southland Holdings CEO Frank Renda. “It’s a privilege to have this legendary firm as part of our family.”

AB’s success over the last century is remarkable. It’s a privilege to have this legendary firm as part of our family.

Frank Renda, CEO, Southland Holdings

AB’s specialized engineering and construction capabilities provided early opportunities to construct some of our nation’s most notable structures, including the Empire State Building; the original Yankee Stadium; and the original Oakland Bay Bridge (along with the new Bay Bridge constructed in 2014). AB’s early international portfolio featured several projects in Kenya, Sudan, and the Philippines—a remarkable feat for a company so young.
As the nation grew, so did AB. By the end of 1938, the company had fabricated materials for – and constructed bridge projects – in 69 countries and U.S. territories. It had also claimed fame as one of the United States’ largest employers.

As the nation grew, so did AB. By the end of 1938, the company had fabricated materials for – and constructed bridge projects – in 69 countries and U.S. territories. It had also claimed fame as one of the United States’ largest employers.

A CALL TO ACTION

Boasting a workforce comprised of true American patriots, AB dedicated 100 percent of its fabrication capacity to the United States’ defense from 1941 to 1945. AB proudly manufactured 199 land/ship tanks (LSTs), commonly known as tank landing ships, as well as more than 500 additional war machines and repair vessels. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board to supervise war mobilization, which made LSTs the highest priority in the American wartime construction program.

To this day, AB’s participation in LST ship production is considered an engineering and construction marvel. Running 328-feet-long, each LST was capable of carrying up to 217 troops and 18 thirty-ton tanks or 33 three-ton trucks. Equipped with 100-foot, double-hinged ramps, the LST was constructed to land directly on the beachhead, providing effective beach evasions, including its pivotal role on D-Day. AB produced each one of these massive vessels in three months.

From June 1943 to August 1945, the LST was a key element in World War II. These machines participated in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France, the liberation of the Philippines, and the capture of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Out of the 1,051 LST- class ships, more than 1,000 survived through the end of the war, with several going on to serve in the Vietnam War. The last fully operational World War II-era LST can be found in Evansville, Indiana. This remarkable ship leaves port each year in the early fall to sail the nation’s inland rivers.

AB’s additional war-related projects included: construction of a grassroots steel-making facility in Geneva, Utah; major aluminum manufacturing facilities in Tennessee; and, steel mill expansions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. AB also built strategic military bridges, including the Harry Truman vertical rail bridge in Kansas City; the Terminal Island rail bridge in Long Beach; and, the Liard River Suspension Bridge on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia—all still in use today. AB continues to work actively with the United States military on projects from coast to coast.

POST-WAR PRODUCTION

The building boom after World War II favored AB, which fabricated and erected the entire 18,443-foot-long superstructure for the Mackinac Bridge that connects the upper and lower portions of Michigan. AB also had the honor of serving as the contractor for the original Tappan Zee Bridge crossing the Hudson River in New York City. As part of a joint venture, AB was again selected to construct the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced Zappen Zee Bridge in 2017.

SPACE EXPLORATION VENTURES

Today, AB continues its working relationship with the U.S. military, as well as the country’s space programs, constructing launch complexes 40–41 at Kennedy Space Center; the NORAD Combat Complex in Colorado Springs; over 500 Minuteman missile sites throughout Wyoming, Missouri, North Dakota, and Montana; and, the Space Propulsion Facility at NASA’s Lewis Research Center in Sandusky, Ohio. AB has also constructed wind tunnels, lab buildings, launch complexes, and rocket assembly buildings. In 1964, AB completed the iconic superstructure for the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. At 4.8-million-cubic-yards, this building remains one of the largest structures in the world.

SOARING INNOVATION

AB’s engineering and innovation capabilities continued to hit new heights as the company grew, including the fabrication and erection of over 78,000-tons of structural steel for Chicago’s Sears Tower in 1972. Known today as the Willis Tower, this structure stands as one of the tallest buildings in North America. That same year, AB began construction on the 1,700-feet New River Gorge Bridge; the world’s longest deck arch bridge at that time. With a deck about 900-feet above New River, it is also one of the highest in existence. Its construction challenged AB’s prodigious in-house engineers, calling for the design of a 100-ton-capacity cableway to erect the arch segments and a tieback system for the uncompleted arch arms able to sustain 22,793-tons.

During the 1980s, AB led the engineering industry in the utilization of structural concrete for bridge construction. During that era, the company constructed the 8,858-foot, all-concrete Sunshine Skyway high-level bridge in Tampa, Florida. The bridge is one of the earliest concrete segmental structures in the U.S. Built over a busy ocean navigation channel, the team utilized a variety of ingenious construction methods, including balanced cantilever and overhead gantry erection cranes.

MAKING MAGIC WITH DISNEY

In addition to the Skyway Highway, AB also fabricated and constructed over 41,000-linear-feet of precast pieces for the Disney World Monorail system in Orlando, Florida. This project was the beginning of a longtime relationship with both Disney and the State of Florida.

In 1966 AB began a top-secret Disney project to develop a private island located southwest of Great Abaco Island. Formerly known as Gorda Cay, Disney’s chosen locale was uninhabited, had no improvements, and boasted zero berthing facilities of any kind. While the ambitious schedule and the diversity of watercraft made this a challenging project, the materials delivery logistics, workforce establishment, occasionally violent weather, and many more hurdles made this a truly formidable undertaking for AB.

AWARD-WINNING ADVANCEMENTS

AB bears the distinction of constructing the Tagus River Bridge rail deck addition in Lisbon, Portugal. This unprecedented project—undertaken the same year as AB’s Disney island development—required airspinning two new main cables on an active suspension bridge that carried over 250,000 vehicles per day. AB also had to manage the partial load transfer of the bridge to the new cables. Completed in 1998, the project broke all existing airspinning records and received the George S. Richardson Medal for outstanding achievements in bridge technology in 2001.

SPANNING NEW HORIZONS

With the new century came new occasions for AB to break records and deliver innovative engineering and construction techniques around the world, including creating the world’s largest movable bridge. The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge is an eight-leaf bascule bridge spanning the Potomac River between Alexandria, Virginia, and Oxon Hill, Maryland. Construction incorporated cast-in-place segmental piers, precast segmental piers, structural steel superstructure, and self-performance of all mechanical installations on the movable spans.

Across the country, AB joined the team reimagining the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. AB was no stranger to this structure, as the company built the original back in the 1930s. This massive project required the design and construction of a temporary bridge, upon which to erect the permanent bridge, until the cables could be erected and anchored in the new deck and the load transferred to the new cables. AB’s famous engineering innovation played an integral role in the successful delivery of this project, which was completed in 2014.

In addition to the Bay Bridge, AB also completed the world’s largest observation wheel in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2014. This project required the development of a wide variety of methods and equipment, including a strut system to support the progressively erected rim; a tieback tower to support the partially built structure; a hydraulic rotating mechanism to advance the incomplete rim; and, many other uncommon items. Like many AB projects, the High Roller Observation Wheel represented the team’s capability of marrying powerful engineering know-how with a legendary can-do work ethic.

During this period, AB also became part of the design-build team engineering and constructing the Queensferry Crossing in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as a member of the Tappan Zee Constructors team building the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Both of these high-profile projects showcased AB’s exceptional engineering ingenuity and construction excellence.

For over 120-years, American Bridge has worked hard to become a worldwide leader in bridge, marine, and complex structure engineering and construction. Now part of the Southland Holdings family of companies, AB’s rich legacy of delivering legendary projects around the world will be preserved—and encouraged to thrive through the next century.