Construction “Star” Lifts Spirits of Weary Commuters

Published: 9/12, 2019

Fighting traffic on a daily commute is rarely enjoyable, particularly when construction constricts and slows an already congested highway. But for a couple of this past summer, “Steve” provided a welcome respite to the daily grind on I-66 in Northern Virginia. Each morning, he silently greeted the legions of bleary-eyed, coffee-sipping drivers making their way eastward toward the Nation’s Capital. He was there in the evening as well, offering a salute as if to say, “The day is over! Now go home and relax. See you tomorrow.”

Few knew where “Steve” came from, or even if was his name. Had you stopped to ask, you probably wouldn’t have gotten of a response.

“Steve,” you see, was a crane—a Liebherr LTM 1500 brought in by Maryland-based Digging and Rigging, Inc., to help erect some new bridges as part of the I-66 Express Lanes project. With most of the bridge work taking place at night, the crane was locked down during the day, its distinctive Y-shaped boom guying system giving the appearance of upraised arms. Pleasantly distracted from their conversations, talk radio, or e-books, drivers took notice and, naturally, took to social media to talk about it.

Before long, the crane gained a name (the origin is unknown, I’m guessing it’s a play on Stephen Crane, author of “Red Badge of Courage”) and a personality. Some clever photoshoppers soon had “Steve” emulating Rocky Balboa’s triumph atop the Philadelphia Art Museum steps and promoting fast food. There was even a short-lived movement to get “Steve” to run for office, given his ability to unify an otherwise fractious populous.

With his bridge work complete, “Steve” left the scene as quickly and silently as he arrived. But he’s hardly forgotten. A local author has worked with Digging and Rigging to create a children’s book called, “A Crane Named Steve,” in which the Liebherr comes to life to help a young boy adjust to the uncertainties and fears of relocating. Proceeds from the book will go to a local charity that serves area residents in need. (The book is available on

At a time when even the slightest difference in opinion can be a flashpoint for an outright feud, the unlikely ascent of “Steve” from jobsite anonymity to local celebrity offers a pleasant reminder of our ability to find humor and imagination in the most unusual places. It also speaks well of Digging and Rigging’s willingness to play along with their celebrity crane’s star turn, particularly when so many other contractors resist or ignore public and media inquiries about what they’re doing, passing up a valuable opportunity to share their skills that make new roads or buildings happen, or change the prevalent perception of construction as a nuisance rather than a benefit.

Now it may be a stretch to bestow names on your equipment inventory (e.g., “Buster” the breaker, “Sandy” the grinder, “Ralph” the robot), but there’s nothing wrong with instilling a bit of creativity and even whimsy in construction and demolition work either, as long as you stay safe, efficient, and productive.

After all, “Steve” wouldn’t want it any other way.

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