Based in Kerrville, Texas, 1 Priority Coating & Bridge Painting specializes in coating and painting for complex, large-scale projects on concrete and steel bridges. With that type of expertise and a statewide presence, they were a natural fit for coatings work when the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) greenlighted a restoration and rehabilitation project for the Highway 287 overpass over Lancaster Ave., near downtown Fort Worth.
“It’s basically a complete rehab of the entire structure,” said Clay Bennett, a 31-year veteran of the bridge painting industry who now works as division manager for 1 Priority Coating & Bridge Painting.
In recent months, 1 Priority has worked with general contractor Fluor Corp. to coat the bridge as sections become available. “We’ve been doing phases, as things were available,” said Bennett, whose crews began working on the overpass in late 2021. “It’s going to be kind of ongoing until they wrap up everything, the complete restoration of all the bridge.”
The 60,835-square-foot (5,651.8 m2) overpass project consists of 12 steel bridge beams and four spans, and select portions require spot de-leading on cuts made for repair. The substrate typically has areas of spot failures, along with visible rust and a previous coating.
The 1 Priority crew, which varies between four and seven workers depending on the job phase, accesses the high areas of the bridge using 60-foot (18.3 m) manlifts.
“For example, they’ll have half the bridge completely torn apart, and then they repour it,” Bennett said of the general contractor and where his team fits in. “Once they’ve got the deck put back into place, that area opens up, and we’re able to complete that area of restoration. As they’re restoring the top, we’re restoring the bottom.”
The offramp running directly underneath the bridge is completely closed for the project’s duration, which gives crews more room to operate. For the four lanes on the bridge itself, traffic is pushed to one side or the other, as needed.
In terms of work scope, the assignment often depends on the weather forecast, which varies significantly in the winter and spring months in Texas. “Up north, they just shut everything down for the winter season,” Bennett said. “But in Texas, it’s warm and cold, warm and cold, all winter long. So we’re able to continue to move the ball forward. These jobs are a luxury because you do have the luxury of so much prep work. A lot of times when you’re just painting, and you’ve got nothing to do but sit around, it gets expensive just waiting on weather. But here, we have the luxury of being able to prep as we go.”
“We just try to paint when its warmer, and just prep on the bad days and the marginal days,” Bennett explained. “Because there’s so much prep work to do anyway. When the sun is shining, you make hay, and when the weather is bad, you just do prep.”
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety gear is essential for 1 Priority’s crew members, including safety harnesses, respirators, Tyvek suits for de-leading, and plastic containment when pressure washing. As for equipment, their surface preparation toolbox features items such as Novatek’s needle gun scalers, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums, and NorthStar 5,000 psi (34.5 MPa) pressure washers from Northern Tool + Equipment.
“Anything that is loose or flakey gets removed,” Bennett said. “Any transition areas between corroded areas and paint that is still intact, those areas are prepped. After the hand tooling and prep areas are done, at least what you can do by hand, everything receives a pressure wash. That pressure wash also helps expose any areas that might not be tightly adhered.” The crew generally works to achieve the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) Surface Preparation (SP) 2, “Hand Tool Cleaning” and SSPC-SP 3, “Power Tool Cleaning” standards for surface preparation.
For the Highway 287 overpass, prep work often requires 1 Priority to use as many as seven crew members, whereas coating work only needs four. This is due to the complexity.
“You have to have a water collection team for when you’re pressure washing,” Bennett explained. “This team is helping with containment, and they’re also helping with vacuuming and collecting the water. There’s a ground team needed when you have the additional prep. The containment is being moved, you’ve got collection going on, and there’s a lot of moving parts.”
“There’s so much more prep work than the actual application portion,” Bennett surmised.
Generally speaking, once an area is prepped, 1 Priority’s goal is to begin coating within 24 hours. “If you leave it sitting out there too long, you start getting dust and stuff, depending on the roadway and how much traffic and wind is blowing through there,” Bennett said. “Once you get that final clean, we’re looking to try to move on it within 24 hours, after it dries up really well.”
Bridge diaphragms receive an initial coat of Carboline’s Rustbond polymeric epoxy amine, described as a cross-linked penetrating primer/sealer with excellent wetting properties. The high-gloss epoxy goes down at 1–2 mils (25.4–50.8 microns) dry film thickness (DFT).
All areas then receive the Carbomastic 15 epoxy mastic overcoat at 3–5 mils (76.2–127.0 microns) DFT, while bare metal spots get as much as 10 mils (254.0 microns). “The bare metal areas get extra paint,” Bennett said. “A lot of times, we’ll go through and the bare metal areas get hit first. Then, the entire coating will be applied over all of it.”
All coatings are applied using Graco’s GH 300 gas hydraulic airless sprayer with side-curtain tarps installed to protect against overspray. Crew members wear full-face respirators during application. While exact curing times can vary depending on the air temperatures, each area generally cures by the next day.
While the entire project has yet to be fully completed, Fluor and the team at 1 Priority are continuing to make steady progress as of April 2022. From the perspective of the coatings contractor, the sound relationship between both parties is of the utmost importance.
“They’ve been really wonderful to work with,” Bennett said of Fluor. “They’re very organized, and if they say something is going to be available at a certain time, it always seems to work that way. I think they’re happy, too. It’s been nice because we’re so far ahead that we can ask them to go do other jobs and come back, and they’re fine with that.”
Bennett does not know the overpass project’s final completion date, since the majority of the job involves restoration work from the general contractor. But it’s so far, so good from a coatings perspective. “They’ve still got more up top to restore, so it’s still out there a ways,” Bennett concluded. “But it’s looking good!”