Volume 2 | Issue 4 | Year 1999

A fire-damaged bridge on one of the country’s most heavily traveled arteries. Summer holidays had just begun. Several lanes closed. How to handle the heavy traffic?

It was May 23, 1998, and a gasoline tanker truck crashed on I-95 just outside Philadelphia, bursting into flames as it claimed two lives and caused severe fire damage to the freeway bridge. Traffic was to be disrupted for most of the summer while the bridge was being repaired. However, merely five weeks after the accident, all six lanes of the highway were open for business as usual, through the help of High Steel Structures Inc. of Lancaster, Pa.

“Our supplier, Bethlehem Steel, rolled the steel out right away, and we had the steel we needed within one week,” explains Steven M. Bussanmas, High Steel’s senior vice president of marketing. “That kind of timing is really unheard of.”

The Right Choice for the Job

A contractor at the accident scene met with people from the Pennsylvania State DOT. The contractor was hired on the spot. Since Governor Tom Ridge declared the event a state of emergency, the weeks-long bidding process was eliminated. “It saved a lot of time,” says Bussanmas. “The contractor was hired on a Friday, and he called us asking for steel the following Monday. Our people went on overtime, and we worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get that job done.” With a full production schedule already moving, High Steel reallocated priorities to accommodate the emergency.

The original bridge details were still available, since the bridge had been built about 7 or 8 years prior to the accident. High Steel’s team worked from the details and manufactured nine new girders, plus cross-frames. “We had the girders to the site on June 8, one month sooner than expected. We beat even the most aggressive timing by about one week,” says Bussanmas.

Thankfully, there are not too many incidents such as this one, but this case underscores High Steel’s well-earned right to advertise: “It Fits. It’s on Time. It’s on Schedule.” These are very important factors when choosing a steel fabricator for such acutely precise work as mending bridges or building new ones. “You’ve got a big, expensive problem on your hands if you get the fabricated steel to the site and you find it doesn’t fit,” says Bussanmas.

Giving “Good Measure”

And fit it does. The steel is put together on the grounds of the company’s 45-acre complex before being shipped to the construction site, to ensure proper fit and on-time delivery. Before it leaves, it is inspected by the spe-cific state’s DOT.

The company has a rich tradition dating back to 1931, when Sanford H. High es-tablished High Welding Company in Lancaster. His exhortation to his workers: “Lay down a good weld and give good measure.” This has become one of the driving philosophies of the multiple companies under the umbrella of High Industries Inc. High’s words set a continuing proud tradition of quality, integrity and innovation. It was his innovative welding techniques that led him into the steel bridge industry.

For more than 68 years, High Steel Structures has been a major force in the steel fabrication and erection industry. “We are probably the biggest in the country in this niche,” says Bussanmas. Since 1980, the company has fabricated more than 5,000 bridges; and it is the largest steel bridge girder manufacturer in the eastern U.S. Fabricating a wide range of complex bridge components, High Steel has led the industry through pioneering techniques using computer-aided manufacturing and computerized geometric calculation. The company is one of the few fabricators in the industry that also erects structural steel.

High Steel has earned the American Institute of Steel Construction’s (AISC) highest rating, Certified Fracture Critical, and is Category III-certified by the AISC. With four fabricating facilities, a fleet of more than 200 company-owned over-the-road equipment to ensure on-time delivery and in-house detailing services and erection capabilities, High Steel is well poised to keep projects moving on schedule in order to meet the tightest deadlines. The company’s three Lancaster facilities, and one in Williamsport, Pa., offer about 400,000 square feet of space, used for all phases of engineering and manufacturing.

Premier Fabricator

High Steel works with contractors and supplies them with the steel necessary for a particular job. “The contractors are our customers,” explains Bussanmas. Contractors, state DOTs and bridge designers will contact High Steel for fabrication needs. For any one particular job being bid on, there could be 10 contractors bidding. Each one of those contractors might have contacted High Steel for the steel bid.

The company’s primary marketing area is the Northeast region, east of Ohio, and north of Virginia. “That is our core market,” says Bussanmas. “We are the premier fabricator of bridge steel in the Northeast.”

Management’s goal regarding the fabrication process is to maximize the amount of fabrication measured by hours per ton. “We have very skilled people who are used to high production,” says Bussanmas of the company’s 850 employees. “Business is good now,” he continues. “We have a number of big jobs, and we are participating in the ‘Big Dig’ in Boston.” To accommodate these ongoing projects, High Steel has added 125 new people and anticipates additional production capacity soon.

TEA-21 and High Steel

When the ink dried on the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) on June 9, 1998, High Steel Structures began preparing for the impact of that act, which will fund highway, highway safety, transit and other surface transportation programs for the next six years. Contractors will search for reliable products and services as they construct and mend our nation’s intricate system of highways. High Steel is expanding its company-owned fleet and logistics team to support the anticipated increased production capacity. With its in-house team, which includes seven graduate engineers, contractors can rest assured that their jobs will enjoy better project control and on-site technical expertise. The company’s dedicated blast and paint facilities and three NACE inspectors ensure controlled climate and consistent coatings quality. High Steel’s 12 certified welding inspectors and quality control staff meet ASNT guidelines for nondestructive testing of welds by radiographic, magnetic particle, ultrasonic and die-penetrant methods.

New York and Pennsylvania top the bridge-spending chart at more than $1 billion in annual average funding through TEA-21. The total spending on bridges alone through TEA-21 is expected to be more than $20.4 billion over the six-year period. High Steel is ready and able to handle the impact of that act.

Throughout the next several years, the company also will continue to try to gauge the true needs of states’ DOTs in order to be ready to accommodate their needs in an expeditious manner. Bussanmas anticipates that the new federal transportation bill will positively affect High Steel’s business. A privately held company, High Steel Structures’ 1999 volumes are expected to be up 40 percent over 1997.

High Steel’s continuing goal is to be the fabricator of choice, providing economical and structurally efficient steel bridges that fit and are on time. With its facilities, skilled work force, and proven leadership, the company will continue to bring single-source convenience to its customers’ bridge-building needs.