Heavy lifts and hill climbs
RUMBLING engines and blinking clearance lights broke through the chill of an autumn morning at the foot of the Toowoomba Range, in South East Queensland.
The dark shadow of the Great Dividing Range was intermittently cut by passing B-doubles as they lit up the highway on the way down the Warrego.
Morning dew had settled on the grassy patches that grew on the side of the road, as workmen and women wearily bided their time drinking coffee and chatting at the otherwise deserted Withcott roadhouse.
It was 1.30am, and the first major delivery to the Toowoomba bypass site was on its way from the Brisbane depot.
Running an hour behind schedule after weeks of delays due to wet weather, the first Super T girder, made with more than 40 tonnes of pre-cast concrete, crawled west to the site of one of South East Queensland's largest infrastructure projects - The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.
Announced by both the federal and state governments last year, the $1.6 billion project has been a hive of activity and construction.
The design includes a number of key features, including dual carriageway from Warrego Hwy West, Toowoomba-Cecil Plains road and Gore Hwy.
This first delivery, which will be used in the building of the two-lane interchange bridge range from 15m to 30m long, was seen as an achievement for the project.
For the Nexus Infrastructure workers and a heavy lift specialist team from ALE Brisbane, this was the first of many slow ascents up the mountain pass.
In total, 500 Super T girders, which are up to 37m long and weigh up to 90 tonnes each, and 600 deck units, which are up to 27m long and weigh up to 30 tonnes, will be transported for use on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing to serve as the foundation for overpasses.
The longer Super Ts require two truck combos of prime mover and block truck to travel up the Toowoomba Range a with a gradient of 10% or more, each guided by an experienced heavy duty driver and a trailer specialist / steersman.
Just before 2am the Kenworth arrived with its convoy of police and guide vehicles, all lit up like a fiery metallic Christmas tree.
As it met with the Mercedes Benz block truck at the Withcott staging area to hook up, heavy lift experts sprang to action attaching the two machines with a two-metre-long stiff bar.
All latches and straps were checked, the company's health work and safety officer slowly inspected the now massive length of machinery, including the hydraulic modular widening trailers with a bolster system to support the girders.
The work took place in close to silence other than the idling of engines
This scene will likely become a regular feature for the range crossing as work continues on the billion- dollar project.
Some of these convoys may be up to 65 metres long for the heaviest Super T girders.
Closures of the westbound up lanes on the Warrego Hwy for deliveries are expected to be required periodically until late 2018, with the next deliveries requiring westbound up lane closures are expected to occur late April.
After the chain of moving metal pulled away in one clean grunt, the convoy of trucks and escort vehicles took close to an hour to reach the top of the range.
"Nexus would like to thank the heavy vehicle operators, freight industry and local community, who are assisting with these deliveries by using the detours and being patient with the changing dates," a spokesperson for the infrastructure giant told Big Rigs.
According to the Department of Transport and Main Roads it is expected the project will bring $2.4 billion over 30 years of economic and productivity gain for business and industry to Toowoomba, not to mention a number of benefits to the region's heavy haulage operators.
The project is seen by the industry as a huge benefit, particularly when the existing range crossing had previously been rated as one of the worst performing sections of road infrastructure in Queensland by the Transport and Logistics Council, who suggested a daily use of almost 35,000 heavy vehicles.
The group also reported the steep gradients and tight curves of the road forced slower than usual descents which impacted on productivity.
When completed, the crossing is expected to carry the bulk of heavy traffic.
TSRC by numbers
Project costs $1.6 billion
Supports 1800 full time jobs
The crossing is 41km long
Expected to reduce travel time by 40 minutes
Expected to be complete by 2018
500 Super Ts needed in total
Each Super T is 37m long
Each Super T weighs 40-90 tonnes each