By Fenit Nirappil
on January 21, 2013
After masterminding the seamless move of the Sellwood Bridge this past weekend, Hillsboro-based Omega Morgan plans to pursue new transportation projects with a much-boosted résumé.
The heavy equipment mover was selected as a subcontractor for the $307.5 million bridge replacement project. Months of planning and endless meetings culminated on Jan. 19 as the bridge was moved to a temporary location dozens of feet away, inches at a time, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The old bridge will serve as a detour until 2015 while the new bridge is built.
“This is not a big leap forward. It’s the same bits and pieces we’re used to,” said Ralph Di Caprio, Omega Morgan’s chief engineer and the brains behind the Sellwood Bridge move.
Omega Morgan started as a family-owned business in 1991, and after years of explosive growth, the private equity group Riverlake Partners acquired a majority stake in December 2011. The company has a wide array of projects across the U.S. and globe, but most of them boil down to moving big stuff.
They can range from a MRI machine inside a hospital, a 300,000-pound transformer for hydroelectric dams or a 4,000-ton barge in Portland.
The company made $60 million in revenue in 2011 and estimates that sales increased 15 percent in 2012, said CEO and President John McCalla. Specialized heavy lifting projects show the largest promise for growth. At 1,100 feet, the Sellwood Bridge was the longest bridge Omega Morgan has moved, but it is not expected to be the last.
“There are more than 10,000 bridges in this country, and most of them need repair or replacement,” said Di Caprio.
Government agencies are increasingly attracted to the idea of moving an old bridge to serve as a detour while a replacement is built, McCalla said. And provided the infrastructure dollars are available, the Sellwood Bridge move is a prime example for Omega Morgan to show it’s the right company for the job.
“You can’t even talk to them without something like this on your résumé,” said McCalla.
The 1,100-foot steel truss of the Sellwood Bridge was lifted a few inches off its concrete supports Friday. The next day, the truss was slowly moved through specially built tracks (with Dawn liquid detergent as lubricant) while stringently monitored by county engineers.
Plans for a bigger interchange at the new bridge’s west end made the job much more complicated. So the bridge was moved in an arc motion like a windshield wiper, 66 feet on its west end, 33 feet on its east end.
“If it’s off just a little bit…tons can go wrong,” said McCalla.
The alternatives to the move, such as building the new bridge in two phases, could have cost millions more, county officials have estimated.
Headquartered near Hillsboro’s airport and with an office in Seattle, Omega Morgan finished opening a Phoenix office this month, targeting manufacturers and high-tech companies in the Southwest.
Omega Morgan has projects lined up for the rest of 2013, including moving equipment and vessels for major energy projects, that company leaders hope will help them hit the $100 million revenue mark.
Fluctuating between 300 and 350 workers, Omega Morgan is boosting its ranks in all offices, especially seasoned field supervisors, to fuel its growth.
“Anyone can go buy a truck or a trailer,” McCalla said. “But if you don’t know what you are doing in this world, you cannot play.”Watch OregonLive’s video Read the original article on OregonLive.com