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Railroad bridge girders require convoy travel on Richardson

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Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:56 pm

FAIRBANKS —They are not the longest or the heaviest loads that drivers for Carlile Transportation Systems have moved on highways in Alaska, but the girders for the new Alaska Railroad bridge over the Tanana River add up to a complicated exercise in logistics.

There are six truck drivers and nine pilot cars assigned to the operation, said Greg Thompson, the heavy haul manager in Fairbanks for Carlile. The girders, made in China, are being hauled from Valdez to Salcha for the new bridge.

“It’s not the most complex move we’ve made for sure, but it’s got its own set of issues that these guys have to deal with. The length, width, weight isn’t the issue — it’s the nature of a beam,” Thompson said.

The steel I-beams are 165 feet long and weigh about 70 tons each and are 11 feet high.

Carlile has moved the first 8 of 80 girders to the site near Salcha from Valdez, a trip that takes up to 24 hours because the trucks are taking it slow, to avoid doing damage to the beams. The drivers stop for the night along the way.

The trucks travel at speeds of from 10 mph to 25 mph, depending upon conditions.

There is a “pull truck,” which is sort of like a tow truck, that travels with each of the tractor-trailers and hooks onto the front to provide extra pulling power up Thompson Pass and through the Alaska Range, Thompson said.

The trucks travel in convoys from Valdez to Salcha, with three girders in each convoy. Thompson said they will try not to bunch up, to help other motorists.

He also said that at spots where the corners are particularly tight, such as near Paxson, the pilot cars may have to momentarily block traffic for safety.

The Alaska Railroad said the 72 remaining girders will be hauled in the next six months from Valdez, where 56 were unloaded last month. A second shipment of 24 girders from China has yet to arrive.

Six of the 19 bridge piers have been completed, with five more under construction.

The railroad said it plans to post weekly advisories at www.northernrailextension.com.

Mark Peterburs, project manager for the railroad, said two shifts had been employed on the bridge until last week, when one was released. He said the last concrete pour of 2012 was taking place Wednesday.

“What we’ll be doing from now until early next year is to bring the girders in, unload them, put them together. If we get a break in the weather we might try to pour more concrete or do piling work in the river,” Peterburs said.

•••

TV SUBSIDY: The California company that made Bristol Palin’s TV show about raising her child has collected a $354,348 subsidy from the state.

Unlike nearly all of the other shows and films subsidized so far under the movie incentive program, the salaries paid to Alaska residents on the Palin show account for a majority of the total  “Alaska expenses” for the TV show.

Palin and the five other Alaska residents who participated as “talent” on the show collected close to a half-million in wages.

Total “Alaska expenses,” a term that is misleading because it includes money paid to people from Outside, were reported as $995,275.

“Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp” ran for 14 episodes last summer on the Lifetime Channel and did not gather big ratings for the cable network.

The Alaska subsidy is paid in the form of a transferable tax credit, but since the limited liability companies that make films don’t pay a state tax, they sell the tax credits to other companies.

Calling it a “tax credit” is a misnomer since the recipients pay no state taxes. The subsidy is an indirect cash transfer from the general fund.

The document from the Alaska Film Office says the Helping Hands LLC paid $475,598 to “above the line” people from Alaska. “Above the line” is the term used to denote the stars, director, producer and other key figures in a production.

The salaries paid to people who worked on the physical production — running cameras and lights, etc. — totaled $32,400 for Alaska residents, according to the form. There were no Alaskans hired as crew for the show.

The subsidy paperwork states six Alaskans were part of the “talent” for the show, Bristol Palin et al., and worked an average of 14 weeks.

The LLC also reported paying $74,057 in “above the line” wages to people from Outside and $148,450 to non-Alaskans for production work.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter at FDNM@dermot.

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