Update: Pittsfield's Unistress lands $70M Tappan Zee Bridge contract; 100 new jobs seen

Unistress Corp., which makes preformed concrete decking at its Pittsfield facility, will invest $6 million to handle its Tappan Zee Bridge contract.

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Tappan Zee Bridge project at Unistress

PITTSFIELD - Unistress Corporation has been awarded a $70 million contract - the largest in the company's 46-year history - to provide precast concrete deck panels for the new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York.

President Perri Petricca said Unistress plans to invest over $6 million to expand its facilities on Cheshire Road, and hire over 100 new employees in Berkshire County where unemployment is 6.3 percent, slightly higher than the state rate. The hiring of the new employees is expected to begin by the end of June.

"We are thrilled to have this project as a catalyst for expanding our bridge division and creating new jobs in the community," Petricca said.

A subsidiary of Pittsfield-based Petricca Industries Inc., Unistress is the state's only manufacturer of prestressed concrete, and one of only four companies in New England that provides this product.

Plans call for Unistress to provide 6,000 precast concrete panels that will serve as the roadbed for the 3.1 mile span over the Hudson River that connects New York's Westchester and Rockland counties.

The $3.9 billion initiative is the single largest bridge construction project in New York state history. It will replace the original Tappan Zee bridge, which was constructed in 1955.

Unistress was selected for the project by Tappan Zee Constructors LLC of Tarrytown, N.Y., a joint venture involving four companies that's overseeing the construction of the bridge.

Construction began with marine work last year. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2018. When completed, the new bridge will include eight traffic lanes, four breakdown lanes, a bicycle and pedestrian path, state-of-the-art traffic monitoring systems, and accommodations for either light rail or commuter rail.

Unistress had originally been working with Tappan Zee Constructors on a project to build an entire bridge out of concrete, but when the focus of the project changed, the Pittsfield firm submitted a bid to construct a precast concrete deck.

According to Petricca, Tappan Zee Constructors spent months evaluating proposals from precast concrete producers across the country to ensure that whomever they selected could provide on a tight schedule 6,000 pieces that are designed and built to last for 100 years.

"They came up and toured our plant," Petricca said. "In the end we weren't the low bidder, but they decided to award it to us anyway based on the quality of our product and our expertise."

Petricca said Unistress plans to expand its facilities on the Cheshire Road property it owns adjacent to the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction. That work will take place in an area located "right along Cheshire Road," Petricca said, not near Partridge Road, where the company currently utilizes an area for storage.

Instead of building a new structure to house the new work, Petricca said Unistress plans to install temporary enclosures on Cheshire Road that will cover 18 production beds.

"We simply don't have time," he said. "We have to be in construction by the end of July." Unistress will also be purchasing new crane and cement mixers, "really substantially increasing our production capability," Petricca said.

Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi sees the new project as a boost for the community.

"Unistress has often been identified as an innovator in the field of prestressed concrete, especially for demanding, large-scale structures such as the Tappan Zee Bridge project," he said in a prepared statement. "The added jobs will be a welcome boost to the local employment picture and the local economy."

"Unistress has shown - yet again - that they are a world class company," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, in a written statement.

Petricca compared the Tappan Zee Bridge project in scale and complexity to the work Unistress performed on the Big Dig project in Boston between 1997 and 2005. Unistress has also provided work on bridges, parking garages, railway stations, and stadiums, including the new Yankee Stadium. In 2009, Unistress provided concrete structures for GlobalFoundries, a new microchip facility in Malta, N.Y.

Heather P. Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, said the new positions generated by the project will help the area recover from March's sudden closure of North Adams Regional Hospital, which cost the county more than 500 jobs.

"One hundred jobs is very instrumental to Berkshire County with 4,000 people collecting unemployment insurance," Boulger said. "I applaud the efforts of Petricca and Unistress and look forward to working with them and finding resources for these jobs." To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224