The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) and Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) are pleased to announce that the Kinzua Sky Walk project, a tourist attraction and civil engineering landmark located in McKean County, Pa., was submitted for and recognized with Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) prestigious Mid-Atlantic’s Best Project award in the small projects under $10 million category. This annual award program honors the region’s “best achievements in design and construction.” The 2,000 foot long and 301 foot high Kinzua Viaduct was the longest and tallest railroad viaduct in the world when built in 1882, and eventually became registered as a national civil engineering historic landmark. Through a DCNR initiative, a 2002 inspection by HRG revealed deterioration to the tower columns and anchor system which made it susceptible to high winds. An emergency design-build rehabilitation project was implemented in 2003 but with only half of the structure repairs completed, the viaduct was struck by an F1 tornado on July 21, 2003 and the unrepaired portions of the structure collapsed. Overcoming accessibility and constructability challenges due to the project’s unique location, officials, contractors and a team of HRG’s engineers championed the restoration of the damaged structure to safely support pedestrian access and encourage increased tourism to the site. Now known as the “Kinzua Sky Walk”, a new and innovative element was introduced to the structure that involved a steel framed, octagon observation deck with a glass floor (similar to the Grand Canyon Sky Walk) at its center to permit viewing and observation of the support structure. “The six towers of the original viaduct have been restored, with the addition of a pedestrian walkway with a partial glass floor that extends out into the Kinzua Gorge,” DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan said. “The idea to stabilize the structure came in to play soon after the tornado struck. Understanding that this is an important tourist attraction in McKean County, DCNR felt it was important to continue to tell the story of its history, construction and destruction and to invest in this signature destination within the Pennsylvania Wilds region.” “The circumstances and various challenges that arose throughout the duration of the project may have been unpredictable at times,” said Brian D. Emberg, P.E., Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at HRG. “But the Kinzua Sky Walk rehabilitation and restoration project is representative of a true engineering landmark and piece of history for visitors and residents of this region, and we are particularly proud to have played a role in its successful completion.” The judging criteria for the award focused on overcoming significant challenges; adopting innovative approaches; executing exceptional design and craftsmanship, and maintaining safe sites. This one-of-a-kind project will be recognized in a special Mid-Atlantic edition of ENR in December 2012 and at a ceremony on December 11, 2012 in Baltimore, Md. In addition, the project now advances to a national ENR’s Best Project Competition. For more information and photographs on the Kinzua Sky Walk project, please click here.
Established on July 1, 1995, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is charged with maintaining 120 state parks; managing 2.2 million acres of state forest land; providing information on the state’s ecological and geologic resources; and establishing community conservation partnerships with grants and technical assistance to benefit rivers, trails, greenways, local parks and recreation, regional heritage parks, open space and natural areas. For more information visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us.
Originally founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.