The minister reached to the top of the shelf to make the significance clear. The then North Rhine-Westphalian Transport Minister Michael Groschek dubbed the A1 Rhine Bridge, half of which is in Leverkusen and half in Cologne, a "monument to the catastrophic state of Germany's infrastructure". That was in 2016 - and the main lifeline to the heart of the cathedral city and to the nearby Bayer and Ford plants has been in intensive care for some time, to say the least.
Dilapidated through and through, no longer salvageable. In 2012, experts declared the structure to be in a "critical condition. To prevent drivers of heavy trucks from using the bridge despite the ban, traffic lights, scales and barriers were installed on the highway. For all those who are still allowed to cross, bridge speed is 60. Since the beginning of 2021, HOCHTIEF experts have been working with partners to build the first section of the new bridge. We want to be finished by the end of 2023. "We'll do it," says project manager Jan Felgendreher.
“Every leader should have children. They will demonstrate your limits.” Jan Felgendreher has two sons who went to school in England, because until 2012 he worked eight years there for HOCHTIEF. The 53-year-old is in charge of the Leverkusen bridge project and wants to move it forward quickly. Because as a Cologne resident, he has been stuck in traffic jams here often enough. Hesitating, having reservations, hedging his bets before he takes the next step—you can imagine Jan Felgendreher as really quite the opposite of this. A guy like a tree—frank, hands-on, straightforward. “Yes, I’ll do it”, was also his reaction when HOCHTIEF hired him as a site manager after he finished studying engineering in 1996, and on the very first day of his professional life he was able to participate in building the B9 road tunnel in Bad Godesberg. “I have never regretted it,” says Felgendreher after a quarter of a century at HOCHTIEF. “Every day I learn something new and I am constantly amongst people from very different constellations.”
Mistress of the numbers
Mistress of the numbers
Dominique Ludwigs is in charge of the figures for the Leverkusen Bridge. The 34-year-old monitors the economic status and operational risks of the construction project, investigates deviations from the target and controls the project budget. "Even at school, I was much more interested in math than languages," emphasizes the industrial engineer. Ludwigs, a self-confessed yoga and Roger Federer devotee, has always wanted to follow her grandfather in the job of civil engineer. An important part of her job is to get out onto the construction site and see what's behind the figures, what money is being spent on. Before joining HOCHTIEF, the controller worked for another company for over two years in Oman on the construction of a water protection dam. "A big multi-culti project, with German, French, Indian, Egyptian colleagues - tremendously exciting." There were no problems as a woman in a Muslim country, because things are comparatively liberal in the country on the Arabian Peninsula. Women in construction - still a topic that needs to be talked about today? Not for the native of Aachen. "I've never had any bad experiences. Right from my first job in road construction, I had to deal with two older foremen. That's when I started to worry a bit. But completely in vain, it went great. And that hasn't changed since."
Yannis Schwarze (28), site manager for the Rhine bridge in Leverkusen, gets up every morning with a pretty precise plan of what's coming up that day. "And I can be sure that half the time it will be completely different." It is precisely this variety, the constant challenge, that the Dortmund native appreciates about his job. Challenges, anyway. They're important outside of work, too. "I switch off well on the racing bike. Best when it's steep and long uphill, because then I can't think about anything else." Complex projects, lots of contact with people, "an incredibly steep learning curve" and all in teamwork - for the passionate sportsman, all things that round off the positive picture surrounding his job. The civil engineer found his way to the company via a six-month internship on a HOCHTIEF project. That was five years ago. At the time, his work was so well received that the project manager asked him if he would like to stay on. Yannis Schwarze wanted to.
The man for everything
The man for everything
Philip Schulze is deputy. Deputy project manager. And first site manager. He is the interface between project and site management. In a way, he's the “man for everything.” The 35-year-old has to keep an eye on the big picture: Deadlines, costs, quality. Sounds stressful. “True,” says the native of Sauerland, who lives in Cologne. All the more so because the person he represents is not only involved in Leverkusen, but in other HOCHTIEF projects as well - and accordingly a lot lands on Schulze's desk. Nevertheless, he enjoys his job. Incidentally, he chose it not least because of an interesting presentation by a civil engineer at a job fair. Originally, he wanted to become a doctor, like his father. But then everything turned out differently. The father of a young daughter, who is also renovating his own house, likes above all “to be involved in creating something.” For example, a building that will last a long time. In this context, the beautiful word “pride” comes up. “I haven't been in the profession that long,” says Philip Schulze. “But when I show my children in 20, 30 years what I helped to build, I imagine it will be very nice.”
The concrete expert
The concrete expert
Renate Schönfeld's workplace is just under 60 kilometers from the Leverkusen bridge. In the 47-year-old's laboratory in Duisburg, the concrete we install has to prove itself. "My job starts with checking the requirements for the individual concrete components of a project and compiling the required concrete types for the tender. During the course of the project, I check whether the concrete installed also meets the required properties," says the Cologne native, describing her work. In addition, Schönfeld manages one of HOCHTIEF's three test centers. There she monitors whether the building material is being used correctly, i.e. whether the strength is correct in the first instance. For this purpose, concrete cubes are produced on the construction sites and brought to the laboratory. "There we check the compressive strength of the concrete," says Schönfeld, who has been working at HOCHTIEF for more than 20 years-and has put tens of thousands of cubes under pressure during that time. Even in her free time, the mother of a daughter can't really get away from the building material. "I also tinker with concrete at home, and have already made bowls, candlesticks or even Easter eggs out of it for friends and relatives." Whether her gifts are well received? "Well, so far no one has complained."
The experienced one
The experienced one
Monika Willma was one of the first to arrive at the construction site on the left bank of the Rhine. When the 53-year-old arrived in Merkenich in mid-March 2021, she first had to clean up. The floods a month earlier had washed out a lot of things, including parts of the construction roads and foundations. "Only after we had done this work could we set up the construction site," Willma recounts. And only then could she devote herself to her real job: Site manager. There are a few of those here. Because the new Rhine bridge is divided into four sections: A foreshore bridge (reinforced concrete), two river bridges (composite steel construction) and the so-called orthotropic bridge section (steel), which crosses the Rhine and is being built by partner company SEH. There are people responsible for each part. Monika Willma, who has been with HOCHTIEF for 27 years, is responsible for the substructures of the Strombrücke on the left bank of the Rhine. Because she lives in the Eifel region, she has been in many traffic jams on the A1 on her way to her various HOCHTIEF projects in the past-and knows about the need for the expansion. "But hello! That's where I lost some of my life time," recalls the civil engineer, for whom coordination is also the order of the day at home: 15 budgies and two cats have to get along with each other. Willma's recipe for success: "The birds live in one room, the cats in the rest of the house. Then it works out with the cohabitation."
Man with a great plan
Man with a great plan
Lars Scheidemantel has the best qualifications for his job. "I'm pretty structured in my private life, too, and I'm usually pretty well organized," says the man from Bochum with a laugh. So it's fitting that the 34-year-old works as a planning coordinator in Leverkusen. "Planning is half the battle," as the saying goes. Nowhere is that truer than on a construction site. The father of two young children calculates what services need to be provided. He makes sure that what the various planners have planned for the shoring or the bridge, for example, fits together - in other words, that it can be implemented. Scheidemantel is one of a group of young civil engineers who joined HOCHTIEF right after graduation. That was in 2013, and here in Leverkusen things are different from his first projects because certain preliminary work had already been done. "It's a challenge to get involved in someone else's planning." But to use the popular saying again, "You grow with your tasks."
So-called "digital natives" are generally understood to be "people who have grown up with digital technologies and are skilled in their use. Does that fit, Mr. Kolodziej? "That only applies to me to a limited extent," admits David Kolodziej. The 30-year-old, who is responsible for the introduction of digital products in Leverkusen, first came into contact with the topic at the HOCHTIEF innovation platform Nexplore. This experience is now helping him. Whether construction diary, document and plan management, precast tracking, concrete delivery, fresh concrete temperature measurement or quality assurance - in his eyes, the Leverkusen bridge is to "become a pioneer in the topic of digitalization." By switching to digital products, data collection initially requires more effort, but the underlying data structure enables much more efficient use of the data as the project progresses, explains Kolodziej. One example: "Instead of having to search through an estimated 300 different Excel sheets, construction activities can be easily filtered and evaluated with just a few mouse clicks." In his spare time, Kolodziej is "passionate about instinct sports." If that doesn't mean anything to you: For the Cologne native, this includes "all sports where you don't have time to think, but simply have to react instinctively."
The problem solver
The problem solver
Robert Grummel grew into his job in the classic way. His father, a civil engineer himself, took him to construction sites at an early age. During school vacations, the now 30-year-old worked as a laborer in masonry crews. "Actually, I was always convinced that this wouldn't be my thing. But after a short time, my interest was piqued and I started to get excited about construction." The path: high school graduation, military service, studies in Braunschweig and Aachen, trainee start at HOCHTIEF in early 2018, construction manager since 2020. In Leverkusen, he is in charge of the construction of the foreland bridge. This is the part of the Rhine bridge that is still on land and crosses it in a prestressed concrete structure about 400 meters long. Besides organization and planning, an important part of his job is solving problems. As is always the case in life, these usually crop up when you need them least. "In this case, a quick and pragmatic solution is needed so that the whole construction site doesn't come to a standstill," Grummel knows. A classic case: an important part is missing, procurement actually takes a week, but the thing has to be there tomorrow. "Then we organize it with our people and pick up the part ourselves." And it's up and running again.
Caretaker and bumper
Caretaker and bumper
At 61, Helmut Kereit is the oldest on the site. His job title: senior foreman. Sounds like a boss. And that's exactly what it is. Kereit organizes, schedules, orders, controls, and takes care of things. At the same time, he is something of a buffer between the site management and the staff. When things go wrong, it's usually with him. "But don't worry. I'll get it sorted out." The way Kereit says it, people believe him. "They all know me here," says the man who has been with HOCHTIEF for 41 years. Too many construction sites to remember them all, but "I've liked it everywhere." Over the years, things have changed. The projects. The way of building. The people who create with it. "When I look at the work polishers of today, they do lack a bit of strength or confidence," he finds. "I don't have a problem at all if someone doesn't understand something and asks. But keeping your mouth shut and pretending that everything is fine even though nothing has been understood, that's just not on."
Whether professionally or privately - somehow Martin Asmann's life very often has to do with water. The father of three, whose professional life began in 1989 as a carpentry instructor at a former HOCHTIEF subsidiary, is not only a passionate surfer and swimmer. He is currently helping to build a bridge over one of Europe's largest waterways. Across a river in which - the 49-year-old notes - even a skilled athlete like him would never swim because of the dangerous current. His job at HOCHTIEF is work preparation. This means that Martin Asmann is not a permanent member of the respective construction team. Rather, he comes into play at the very beginning of a project, in this case during the (re)tendering of the bridge construction. "I calculated what we needed in terms of formwork and scaffolding, obtained the relevant bids and, after the contract was awarded, concluded the contracts." His current job was a bit trickier than usual because HOCHTIEF was not starting from scratch in this particular case, but individual things were already in place. Asmann: "We had to look closely at what was still missing or needed to be replaced. Only then did we order accordingly."
Doesn't buy your everyday stuff
Doesn't buy your everyday stuff
To say that Yasemin Krämer has a long shopping list to work through is a slight understatement: The 48-year-old buys almost everything (for exceptions, see Martin Asmann, among others) that is needed in terms of work and materials for the construction of the new Leverkusen highway bridge. "This ranges from bored piles and sheet piling to the containers in which the construction site management works, lightning protection and the diving work," explains the mother of two daughters, who likes to do handicrafts in her spare time and is active in the charitable association "Kölner Herzkissen". "Small items such as hammers, nails and the like, on the other hand, are not part of Krämer's remit. If necessary, the on-site crew can request them directly from the company's own electronic catalog. Just like in a proper household, the same applies on the construction site: things have to be there when they are needed. "The road surface for the new freeway lanes is also on my list," says the certified business administrator, who has been working at HOCHTIEF since 1995. "But I won't order it, of course, until I get the green light for it if construction progresses accordingly."
Learned from scratch
Learned from scratch
If you look up the term "learning something from scratch" in the dictionary, you might actually be referred to Uwe Schenk: His father worked as a craftsman at Holzmann. "When I was stumbling through life somewhat disoriented after being weith the Armed Forces, he gave me a choice: 'Either you look for an apprenticeship or I'll get you something,'" recalls the now 53-year-old. His father made good on his promise. Schenk completed an apprenticeship as a special construction worker/industrial carpenter at Holzmann. After this apprenticeship and several further training courses (including industrial foreman), he joined HOCHTIEF in 2000. He then studied at the HOCHTIEF Academy. In Leverkusen, Schenk is site manager for the construction section on the right bank of the Rhine. When asked about the most exciting project of his career, the father of a son does not have to think long: a caisson in Düsseldorf. This is a concrete structure on which an excavator is placed that digs its way down with the structure.
Safe is safe
Safe is safe
Mowing the lawn in sandals? That would never be an option for Jörg Hoffmann. After all, he works for HOCHTIEF as a safety and environmental protection engineer. That's why, even in the garden at home and in his private life as a whole, the rule is: Safety First!
Like Martin Asmann, the father of four children is not part of the permanent crew on the bridge. Together with his colleagues, the graduate civil engineer is responsible for safety on construction sites throughout Germany. Hoffmann: "I check on site whether the work safety rules are being observed. In Leverkusen, for example, we have also worked out a rescue concept for access to the deep excavation pits in cooperation with the local fire department, just in case."
Hazardous substances can harm employees, but also nature. This is not the only reason why environmental protection is given equal priority in Hoffmann's focus. "Sustainability is a very important issue for us." In the past, ecology and economy often got in each other's way. Today, things are different. "It is significantly more expensive to take construction waste to the landfill than to recycle it - or to avoid it altogether," the 55-year-old knows. In other words, if you get it right from the start, you'll not only protect the climate, but also your bottom line.
Burning with enthusiasm
Burning with enthusiasm
When Nico Krämer isn't taking care of the work instructions on the Leverkusen bridge, for example, specifying work steps and sequences or the use of individual construction materials, he's at the grill. "I'm a passionate griller, so I fire up the grill every weekend in the summer and get to work," says the 28-year-old. The Langenfeld native develops similar enthusiasm as he does at the barbecue when he talks about his work. "I became a civil engineer to build bridges." So he's in the right place in Leverkusen. Two weeks after handing in his master's thesis, he started at HOCHTIEF in 2019. Since then, things have been going smoothly for him. "As a young engineer, everything I do is for the first time. That's challenging, of course, but also very exciting." Leverkusen is his third project in two and a half years - and all have been fundamentally different. A lot of new and exciting instead of "schema F." Krämer is certain: "It can go on like this."
The bridge in numbers
meters is the length of the bridge.
meters wide is the bridge.
lanes when both bridge sections are completed.
meters the pylons are towering above the roadway.
September 14, 2021
Now it's the steel's turn
Steel is now being used in the construction of the new A1 highway bridge near Leverkusen. The first steel components have arrived. Assembly can begin.
August 30, 2021
Why we put concrete under pressure
Our experts have been building the A1 Rhine Bridge in Leverkusen since the beginning of 2021. Our team is facing the challenge at this traffic junction with concrete expert Renate Schönfeld. She heads one of the three testing stations for the bridge's construction materials: "I check the compressive strength of the concrete. For this purpose, I receive concrete cubes from the construction site. In my more than 20 years at HOCHTIEF, I've put several tens of thousands of cubes under pressure." The concrete has to prove itself in the 47-year-old's laboratory before we lay it.
August 18, 2021
Diver deployment for the new bridge
If you create connections above water, you also have to dive down sometimes. Special divers are currently working on the new A1 highway bridge near Leverkusen to complete preparatory foundation work for one of the two pylons. This week they have been drilling core holes at a depth of around seven meters. In the near future, they will be welding and concreting - all underwater. And only detectable from above detectable by air bubbles.
July 9, 2021
One bridge. Two men.
The construction of the new A1 Rhine Bridge in Leverkusen continues. On and on! Formwork and reinforcement work is currently underway on the foreshore bridge, i.e. the part of the Rhine bridge that is still on land. "We want to concrete the foreshore bridge as soon as possible," says HOCHTIEF construction manager Yannis Schwarze. Schwarze is 28 years young. Together with planning coordinator Lars Scheidemantel (34), he is one of the young engineers on the team that has taken over the continued construction of the Rhine Bridge in March 2021. They will keep reporting on progress. Work on the roughly one-kilometer-long structure is scheduled to continue until the end of 2023.
June 17, 2021
At the bridge, ready, go!
We're giving the A1 Rhine Bridge in Leverkusen a leg up - in concrete. Six meters below the water level of the Rhine, the team led by HOCHTIEF Construction Manager Uwe Schenk today began concreting the first bridge pylon directly on the riverbank.
The construction site is sealed against the ingress of river and groundwater by a sheet pile box. "We are processing 34 cubic meters of concrete per hour and are currently very well on schedule," says Uwe Schenk. "Later in the day, we want to reach the pylon's full height of 5.30 meters and have used 300 cubic meters of concrete."
March 24, 2021
Get ready to drill
We are spitting in our hands to start work on the A1 Rhine Bridge in Leverkusen. After HOCHTIEF was awarded the contract to continue construction in February, the Maxi drilling machine arrived yesterday. "We'll assemble it today and tomorrow we can get started," says Kieran Engesser (33), site manager for special civil engineering at HOCHTIEF. The drilling rig is quite something. Our experts are using it to drill almost 34 meters deep into the earth at 24 locations so that they can then install concrete piles for the bridge pylons. The boreholes are also of extreme size, with a diameter of 1.50 meters. Work on the approximately one-kilometer-long structure is scheduled to continue until the end of 2023.
The Rhine Bridge, opened in 1965, was designed for 40,000 vehicles per day. A good 50 years later, the reality is different: Around three times as many cars and trucks were traveling here until the first traffic restrictions. Above all, the 14,000 trucks per day took their toll on the structure, acting as an accelerator of the aging process. Due to the increase in traffic, the Kölner Ring was widened to six lanes by 1995. The new Rhine Bridge replacement consists of two individual, parallel bridge superstructures. HOCHTIEF is currently building the first part of the new structure to the north, directly adjacent to the current bridge. After completion, all traffic will initially flow over this new structure. The old Rhine bridge will then be demolished before the second bridge is built on the same site. In this way, the flow of traffic will be ensured during the entire construction period. When the new Rhine bridge is completely finished, traffic will be able to flow over eight lanes. Furthermore, the bridge entrances and exits on both sides of the Rhine will have two lanes. This will result in a higher number of lanes at these interchanges, with a maximum of twelve. In addition, there will be a 3.25-meter-wide bicycle and pedestrian path on both sides.