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Precast concrete offers durable alternative to other materials

NPP 063By Jon Casey

When it comes to restoring the nation’s bridge and highway infrastructure, design engineers look to    prestressed concrete beams and bridge decking as a way to ensure longevity for travelers and reliability for the communities served by those structures. With prestressed concrete bridge life expectancies currently approaching 100 years, departments of transportation and construction contractors are turning to    prestressed concrete products as an alternative to steel in the structures that many of these projects are replacing. For the northeastern U.S., mid-Atlantic region and the District of Columbia, Northeast Prestressed Products, LLC (NPP) of Cressona, PA is there to help supply this proven, quality product.

According to Thomas F. Koons, president of NPP, the advanced technology found in today’s prestressed concrete components, makes prestressed concrete bridge beams and bridge decking sections, an ideal choice for new and replacement construction projects. He said that when designs call for prestressed concrete components, the reduced time of replacement helps keep those projects more cost effective. This is especially beneficial with the increased     number of “P-3” (Public Private Partnership) projects. Prestressed concrete products make better use of time, material and labor in the rebuilding of roads and bridges.

Koons told North American Quarry News that NPP had been in business since the early 1950s under previous ownership and was purchased by the Hawbaker family in 2009. Tom said he came onboard in 2010 as president and CEO after a successful career with a heavy equipment dealership in the mid-Atlantic region. He said that during the time that NPP transitioned from its former ownership to the new, projects that had been contracted with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, helped the business through the difficult times that faced much of the aggregates and concrete industry during that time.

He noted that after his arrival, they looked to improve efficiencies in this new organization with the addition of new equipment and technology. They also adapted several new production practices that helped improve profitability and quality as well.

For example, Koons said they added new, larger capacity, overhead cranes inside the plant. They upgraded to a new 4-1/2 yard MIX® Mixer System, Turbin batch plant (an increase in size from the existing 3-yard plant) and made additional upgrades to cranes outside to help handle the larger products that they were planning to bid upon in future projects.

He said today, NPP is diversifying their product line where they specialize in bridge projects that include providing beams, pier caps, pilings, retaining walls and bridge decking panels. He said that NPP assists with the design process of many of their projects,  calling upon their own in-house engineering staff to work with project engineers as they highlight the potential that prestressed products offer. He said that as DOTs look to make the best use of the funding that is available to them in many of these accelerated bridge programs, more of the specs are calling for  precast/prestressed components. This helps reduce the time needed to replace the bridges while providing safety for the public. He added that currently, they are supplying components for several bridges in New York City as well as to sites in Virginia where highways and mass rail transit are being improved.

Koons said that at this time, essentially, every beam is a custom designed item. With that in mind, together, they are working with the various state DOTs that they serve, in an effort to standardize some of the beam and deck specifications. This serves as a way to reduce cost and improve the efficiencies of uniformity that go along with “standardized parts.” With the advent of several states getting on board with the 3-P concept of project development and funding, more prestressed products are finding a place in more jobs and more applications.

Plant tour

As we toured NPP’s massive manufacturing plant, Tom said that they are currently working five days per week, three shifts per day. With approximately 140 employees, it is easy to understand the importance that scheduling plays in the effectiveness of the overall operation.

Recalling improvements made over the past three to four years, Tom said that the addition of equipment like the computerized rebar bending system, has not only allowed them to use their manpower more effectively, but it has also given them another income revenue source. By being able to offer ready to use rebar components to contractors looking for a custom, pre-bent rebar, NPP’s rebar bending department can provide those products.

At the far end of the plant, a crew was busy putting finishing touches into one of two beams due to be poured later that day. In the 360-foot long beds that hold the beam forms, crews are able to pour two or more beams at a time, depending on each beam’s length.

Tom noted that the advantage of beams and decks manufactured using this process is that they are steam cured, temperature controlled and protected from the elements so that the quality is consistant from beam to beam and throughout the entire product lineup. With the added mix design consistency, having the mixer nearby, combined with temperature control throughout the curing process, offers a finished product of superior quality to a poured in place deck or pier. During the time these products are being manufactured, DOT inspectors from the various states are on hand to inspect the components as they are being made.

He said that with the capabilities that are currently in place, NPP is able to manufacture products with design imprints, custom facades and decorative surfaces that make these structures more desirable and attractive. “We have shipped fascia beams that are imprinted in this way. We are also able to offer painted beams where specified. There are several of these outside bridge beams on overpasses on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that are painted a brown color.”


“We have our own trucking fleet with 12 different sized steerable trailers, including four and six axle units,” he said. “These are capable of hauling beams up to 175-feet in length and 120 tons in weight.”

“We are looking at several interesting projects, one in Vermont that will have us transporting twenty bridge beams up there this year and twenty next year. That will be a 400 mile haul for our crews.”

“The lifespan of our beams can be as much as 100 years. The added lifecycle or longevity is what the DOTs are seeking. This is the kind of beam going to Vermont. Some designs are calling for stainless steel rebar in place of the traditional epoxy coated material. New, special mix designs and high grade rebar help us to manufacture beams that will last that long.” For more information about NPP visit their website at , e-mail them at or give them a call at 570-385-2352.


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