Pile driving a harbinger to base progress

25 Jan 2011 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

As many tenants, employees and service members aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune may already know, one of the many construction projects underway aboard the base is the construction of a new traffic gate and a bridge running from the intersection of Bougainville Drive and Camp Knox Road to the intersection of Brewster Boulevard and Charles Street. What they may not know is what the repetitive banging noise that has been floating upon the winter air for the past week and a half belongs to.

Succinctly, it is the first phase of the three-stage bridge construction and road expansion project; the 2,000-foot bridge that will more easily connect Tarawa Terrace commuters to mainside Camp Lejeune and noticeably reduce gate traffic is already underway.

“The noise you will be hearing in the coming months is the sound of concrete pilings being driven into the floor of the Northeast Creek,” said Cmdr. Marc Daleo, officer-in-charge of construction for Naval Facilities Engineering Command aboard the base. “While many aboard the base may be able to hear it during the day, the most impacted population will be the residents of Tarawa Terrace and Paradise Point.”

Daleo said that, depending on the weather and additional background noise, the two housing communities will be able to hear the pile driving work; however, it should not interfere with the course of one’s day.

“According to the contract, pile driving work may only go from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” said Emily Sylvester, deputy director of the Installation Development Division aboard the base. “While the contractors intend to use every available minute pile driving to attempt to complete the work faster, the schedule coincides with the local curfew. Also, whereas the work will continue seven days a week, the driving will cease April 1.”

Due to environmental stipulations, any river construction is on a hold from the first of April to the end of September as to not interfere with the migratory species traveling upriver. Materials used in the construction are also diligently brought up the river as to not harass any boaters who may be using Northeast Creek.

“A couple weeks ago a few test pilings were driven to gauge certain times and depths,” said Daleo. “Last week was the start of the official driving with about six pilings being placed a day.”

Pile driving entails a crane aboard a barge using a hammering method of pounding these concrete pilings into the riverbed past 10 feet of water and 30 feet of mud and clay until it rests on the subterranean bedrock. A total of 417 pilings are to be driven to support the following bridge. Yet, even as another barge is slated to assist, the prospects of finishing before April still seem slim.

“It’s cutting it close as to if the pile driving will be done by April, but if that is the case, it stops until October with the subsequent road expansion projects being focused on,” said Sylvester.

For those worried about the obtrusiveness of the pile driving noise, rest easy. Work stops at 10:00 p.m. sharp and any daily noise that might be heard from the construction is nothing to be distracted by.

“While the noise will be noticeable, this is a training base,” said Daleo. “There is artillery fire and helicopters overhead constantly; the pile driving, however repetitive it might be, will blend into the background noise.”

No, it is not an accident, a loud act of vandalism or a grunt with a sledgehammer; the noise you may hear is the steady beat of progress as it forges another path into this busy base of ours as well as alleviate a good part of morning and afternoon traffic. As Marine Corps Air Station New River may boast the slogan, “Pardon our noise: it is the sound of freedom,” so too does Camp Lejeune adopt the phrase, “Pardon our noise: it is the sound of progress.”