Steel workers keep inlet bridge local

Assembling the new Indian River Inlet Bridge is a daunting task. But for a handful of local workers, the undertaking is a sigh of relief in a struggling economy.

Coastal Point • Submitted: ES Steel, in Federalsburg, Md., is doing the falsework on the new Indian River Inlet Bridge and has many local employees working on the project.Coastal Point • Submitted
ES Steel, in Federalsburg, Md., is doing the falsework on the new Indian River Inlet Bridge and has many local employees working on the project.

Skanska USA Civil Southeast, the company overseeing the project, solicited a number of bids on the project, including the falsework of the new bridge, awarded to a Federalsburg, Md., company, ES Steel.

“We’re just a family business trying to get out there,” said Chris Marvel, president of ES Steel. The company began 60 years ago and has made quite an impression in Delmarva, from work at the Dover Air Force Base and Salisbury’s James M. Bennett High School to Ocean City condominiums. “The beach condos were our bread and butter before the economy turned south,” Marvel noted.

After being awarded the bid for work on the new inlet bridge, Marvel’s team not only had more to do but had a source of revenue coming in, as well.

“We’ve got a great group of guys working here, and a lot of them grew up in the area,” Marvel noted.

Among some of those Sussex County natives are Josh Clendaniels of Dagsboro, Art Columna from Ocean View and Tim Little of Selbyville. The project supervisor, Terry Pindell, is also from the area, hailing from Georgetown.

ES Steel is constructing the falsework for the bridge – the temporary supports for the structure before the suspension cables are set in place. More than 1,100 tons of steel, in the form of lengthy I-beams, rolls into the Federalsburg warehouse by train. Once the beams are there, ES Steel employees cut the beams to the appropriate lengths and weld them with plates – a process that may take up to two days before delivery to the site of the new bridge.

ES Steel’s flatbed trucks are loaded up with the haul and travel through Georgetown before heading southbound on Route 1 toward their destination. The first deliveries were made earlier this week, and ongoing deliveries are expected to continue through late August.

Having the steel arrive at the warehouse by train brings with it a number of benefits.

“It saves on cost and pollution,” said Marvel. “It gets more steel to us at one time, too. We were fortunate to have won the bid. There were companies all along the coast, some based out of Florida. We’re hoping that this project helps us get out there. We’d like to become an Atlantic Coast entity.”

ES Steel was moved to the Federalsburg area roughly a year ago and had operated in the past around the eastern shore of Maryland and in Seaford. While the company comprises nearly 40 workers, there are less than a dozen focusing on the bridge falsework.

ES Steel has an American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) certified structural steel fabrication shop. Certified and experienced welders operate modern fabricating equipment in-house under careful supervision. The company carries a large inventory of more than 1,000 different sizes of carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum products, though the falsework of the bridge is the first project of this magnitude that they’ve handled, according to Marvel.

“For us,” said Clendaniels, “it’s a great opportunity. Being local guys, we know the impact of the bridge and how big a role it plays in the community. It’s nice to be contributing to something that the beach region really thrives on. It also goes to show that the steel industry and fabrication is not dead. A lot of people will tell us that this business is dying off, but as you can see, that’s not the case.”