No Detour For Old Ladies

by kfrego

Schnabel Foundation took a contract at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento to provide underpinning, shoring, and street decking for a cut and cover concrete pedestrian tunnel. The tunnel ran along the side of the hospital, crossed L Street, and entered a new parking structure. We drilled and installed our shoring beams, including those in the L Street asphalt, while we hand dug the deep underpinning pits under the hospital building footings. Each pit was timbered inside as digging progressed for safety. The pits would be filled with concrete and topped with dry pack cement to provide support of the building during excavation. The open cut was excavated and shored up to the edge of L Street. We had a very tight schedule for closing the street, excavating and shoring for the pedestrian tunnel, and decking the street back over the top of the excavation. The temporary decking would allow traffic on the street while the structure was completed underneath.

We installed our traffic control, excavated across the street, and shored the excavation. We welded twenty four inch cross beams across the excavation to support the temporary road decking. We started placing the twelve by twelve timber crane mats on the crossing on a Saturday morning when traffic in the area was very light. Each four foot by twenty four foot long section was placed and clips were welded to the beams so the mats wouldn’t creep around from the traffic driving on them. We put the last mat on the north side before taking our mid morning coffee break.

A blue Dodge sedan came down L Street driving about twenty miles an hour. When the car came to our street closure at 29th Street it slowly wound through the traffic cones, around our arrowboard  Street Closed warning sign, through the flashing red street light, and continued towards our open excavation. The sedan was in the traffic lanes we had just decked. The crew sat and stared wide eyed as the little old lady drove right across the new deck mats and continued down the street. She wasn’t going fast. She never glanced sideways, never touched the brakes, and never flinched while traversing the mats with a fifteen foot drop on each side. When she got to the intersection on the other end of our work she wound through the traffic cones and drove on down the street. If she had been fifteen minutes earlier our excavation would have been a wide open trap to her car. We were very thankful the side was completed before our coffee break was taken.

The little old lady had probably driven L Street for fifty years………a little obstruction wasn’t going to stop her.