Bridge Project Profiles

Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls Reduce Bridge Spans at Nashville Project

Submitted by Nicholas Olp, Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and TDOT

One of the eight bridges on Interstate 40 in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Aerial Innovations.

One of the eight bridges on Interstate 40 in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Aerial Innovations.

During a $62 million, eight-bridge rehabilitation project on Interstate 40 in Nashville, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., and design engineer Gresham, Smith and Partners, found innovative and creative ways to reduce weekend closures.

One solution called for replacing a 428-foot, six-span bridge, with two single-span bridges. Using Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) walls, or reinforced soil for bridge abutments, allowed more pre-weekend replacement work without sacrificing safety or disrupting travel.

Eliminating bridge spans also required fewer crane picks on the weekends, further shortening road closures and reducing project risks. Fewer bridge spans also gives the project longer life expectancy.

Once the team decided to use MSE walls, it had to find a way to backfill behind the walls and underneath the bridge as high as possible before the weekend replacement. This reduced the amount of backfill work needed during the 58-hour replacement window.

The team used a robotic, extra low profile dozer that needed little clearance to work underneath the bridge. The 33-inch tall, remote-controlled dozer was able to backfill within inches below the existing steel girders. This innovative tool, combined with a truck-mounted conveyor, helped increase productivity and reduce safety concerns that come with traditional low clearance backfill operations.

Working one bridge at a time, the old structures were removed and replaced within each 58-hour weekend period, from 8 p.m. Fridays to 6 a.m. Mondays. The eight bridges were replaced in 10 weekends. The job was completed seven months early resulting in a safer and smoother ride for the 140,000 vehicles a day that use it.

See videos of the project. More information: Nicholas Olp


‘Context Sensitive’ Bridge Replacement

Submitted by the Illinois Department of Transportation

Bridge replacement through Main Street in Meredosia, Ill.

Bridge replacement through Main Street in Meredosia, Ill.

The village of Meredosia, Illinois, population about 1,100, is located on the east side of the Illinois River, about 260 miles southwest of Chicago. A bridge replacement at the same location as the existing bridge would touch down further into the village due to an increased grade. That elevation would mean the downtown businesses would be looking directly into the sides of retaining walls.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) relied on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), a holistic approach to project development, to help determine the location of the new bridge alignment. Three major alternates were considered, each with multiple slight variations. The three alternates included a “through-town” alternate that paralleled the existing bridge, a near bypass, and a far bypass. Although the through town alternate had more displacements and impacted a popular park, a project community advisory group strongly favored the through-town alternate.

While the final design involved moving the bridge alignment 250 feet to the north to prevent the road from being elevated through Meredosia’s Main Street, there still was the potential to separate the town with a 30-foot high retaining wall. Through regular meetings with the community advisory group, a resolution was developed to build the wall to accommodate a side road that originally would have been closed. This opening through the wall helped alleviate many concerns of a large retaining wall separating the village.

The through-town location had several other challenges. The new bridge would have to cross over a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge. Two of the piers had to be built on the refuge property. This problem was solved with a land exchange between IDOT and the federal agency.

A tied-arch design was selected as the best way to reduce future maintenance costs and ease bridge inspections. The project is nearing the end of the first year of a three- to four-year replacement schedule.

Halverson Construction is the main contractor on the $75.1 million project.

More information: Guy Tridgell, IDOT, 312.793.4199.


New Bridge Links Iowa and Illinois

Submitted by the Illinois Department of Transportation

Rending of the U.S. 52-Illinois 64 bridge over the Mississippi River.

The U.S. 52-Illinois 64 bridge linking Savanna, Illinois, and Sabula, Iowa, is a crucial link between the two states, with the nearest alternate crossing over the Mississippi River more than 20 miles away.

Located about 150 miles west of Chicago, the “Savanna-Sabula” opened in 1932 as a private toll bridge and helped boost the regional economy. In 1999, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But the 84-year-old bridge has outlived its intended useful life.

Safety is a big concern. At 20 feet across, the bridge is too narrow to accommodate bicycles or disabled vehicles. Wider vehicles often overlap the opposite lane. Maintenance and rehabilitation costs keep growing.

Four years ago, the Illinois Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Iowa Department of Transportation, began exploring ways to meet current and future needs. Six alternatives were considered.

The selected option consists of 12 spans totaling more than 2,400 feet—stretching from the middle of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife & Fish Refuge in the Mississippi River on the Iowa side, to the high bluffs of the Mississippi Palisades in Illinois. The focal point of the new bridge will be the main span, a steel tied-arch over the river.

The location of the bridge and its unique surroundings pose additional challenges. A 150-foot shift of the navigation channel to the west needed to be coordinated and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. The cooperation of the BNSF Railroad, which operates two heavily travelled tracks under the bridge, also has been critical in meeting safety requirements and obtaining access to the river during construction.

The new bridge is 40 feet wide between a central barrier, with 8 feet of shoulder on each side to accommodate disabled vehicles and still leave room for cyclists.

Kraemer North America is the main contractor for the $80.6 million project.

Construction began in 2015. The new alignment is approximately 100 feet to the south of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic until the replacement is finished in 2017.

More information: Guy Tridgell, IDOT, 312.793.4199.


Historic Bridge in Minnesota Gets Special Support for New Life

Submitted by Acrow Bridge

Support structure on the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake in Bloomington, Minn.

Modular steel components are helping to support an historic bridge over Long Meadow Lake in Bloomington, Minnesota, while also providing access to rehabilitation crews and their equipment.

The Old Cedar Avenue Bridge (also called the Long Meadow Bridge) was built in 1920 in what today is the 11,000-acre Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. When it was built, the structure was the longest steel highway bridge with concrete flooring in the state. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 because of its unusual design.

Contractor Kraemer North America has rented three support structures for the rehabilitation from Acrow Bridge. Each support structure is 170 feet long on 35 feet tall Acrow panel towers.

As the in-place restoration work on each of the bridge’s five spans is completed, the support structures are “leapfrogged” forward to accommodate the next phase. Such techniques significantly save project costs by mitigating the risks faced by contractors, who often have to move a structure rather than working on-site.

Acrow’s reusable steel system supports will be needed until June. The $20 million rehabilitation project is expected to be completed later this fall.

Despite periodic repairs over the decades, the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge deteriorated and was closed to vehicular traffic in 1993 and to pedestrians and cyclists in 2002. Although replacement options were considered to restore non-motorized traffic crossing, rehabilitation was chosen due to the bridge’s historic status.

“It has been gratifying to have been a part of this important project to restore a historically significant bridge with an innovative use of the Acrow truss system,” said Bill Killeen, president and CEO of Acrow Bridge.

The Parsippany, N.J.-based firm has been serving the transportation and construction industries for more than 60 years, with projects throughout the U.S. and over 80 countries.

More information: Eugene Sobecki, Acrow Bridge, 973.244.0080.


New Lake Bridges Take Shape in Western Kentucky

Submitted by Michael Baker Engineering, Inc.

Kentucky Lake Bridge. Photo courtesy of Jason Stith.

Traffic on one of the two twin signature spans of the Lake Bridges project on the US-68/KY-80 corridor in Western Kentucky opened April 8. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is overseeing the combined $260 million in construction.

Kentucky Lake Bridge features a 550-foot-long basket-handle tied-arch main span. Project contractor Johnson Bros. Corp. of Roanoke, Texas, erected the arch on barges near the lake shoreline. On Dec. 1, 2015, crews hoisted it up to hang from temporary towers on the barges, then floated it into place and set it down high above the Tennessee River navigation channel. (View a time lapse video of the lift.)

The new 3,611-foot-long bridge, including the steel plate girder approach units, replaces the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, an obsolete truss structure with trestle approaches, originally built in 1932 to cross the Tennessee River and then raised in 1944 to accommodate the reservoir forming behind Kentucky Dam.

Its sister bridge is under construction eight miles east and spanning another major water way, Lake Barkley, (Cumberland River). The contractor for this project, PCL Civil Constructors Inc., of Denver, is currently drilling shafts into the rock deep below the lake bottom. Lake Barkley is significantly shallower and PCL chose to erect a temporary trestle system to access the pier locations. The bridge, which will replace another Depression-era span, is expected to open in 2018.

Each main span is situated in the deepest part of its respective lake, providing improved navigation clearance for the commercial vessels transiting the heavily traveled inland waterways.

“KYTC’s investment will provide benefits of improved mobility for the community, commerce and tourism, as well as providing a reliable earthquake evacuation route for the Western Kentucky region,” said Mike McGregor, KYTC’s District One chief engineer, who has led the project through pre-construction and design development.

More information: Greg Stiles, Michael Baker Intl., 828.292.9489.


New Technology Provides an Economical Solution for Bridge Replacement

Submitted by Kevin Irving, national marketing specialist, AZZ Galvanizing

Amish Sawmill Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa.

Agricultural equipment overloads had a cumulative effect on the Amish Sawmill Bridge in Fairbank, Iowa, about 65 miles north of Cedar Rapids. The bridge had become structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

And it isn’t the only span in rural Buchanan County with this problem. Many of the county’s more than 250 bridges need reconstruction or replacement.

Now, a new press brake-formed tub girder technology is providing a solution for new and replacement bridges with modular and prefabricated components.

When completed in December 2015, the Amish Sawmill Bridge became the first replacement bridge in the U.S. designed with the new technology.

Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber said his team chose the press brake-formed tub girder technology because it was economical and helped accelerate construction.

“The Press Brake Tub Girders were formed in the same process as when constructing steel utility poles,” Keierleber said. “We press into a box shape, put sheer studs on it and then galvanized it. Everything on the bridge is galvanized—the beams, rebar and barrier rail. The bridge should last 80 to 100 years.”

New Vienna, Iowa-based Taylor Construction did the work using modular shallow trapezoidal boxes that are either galvanized or made from weathering steel and fabricated with full-width steel plate that has been cold-formed using a press brake and supported by geosynthetic reinforced soil (GRS). Four, 52-foot-long press-brake tub girders were used. The deck was precast on the girder and trucks hauled the modular units to the bridge site.

Keierleber said the tub girder technology reduces additional details such as stiffeners and cross frame, and also has the ability to be used for both tangent and skewed configurations on simple or continuous spans. The bridge also used galvanized rebar provided by AZZ Galvanizing.

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment (IBRD) program partially funded the $398,960 project with design and research assistance of the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Highway Research Board.

More information: Kevin Irving, AZZ Galvanizing, 815.693.4242.


Innovations Help Keep Michigan Moving

Submitted by the Michigan Department of Transportation

Before image of M-50/I-96 interchange in Kent County, Mich.

After image of M-50/I-96 interchange in Kent County, Mich.

After image of M-50/I-96 interchange in Kent County, Mich.

Bridge Slide Technology
MDOT, for the first time, is replacing aging bridges using bridge slide technology.

A traditional bridge replacement typically requires months of lane closures and detours. With this slide-in bridge method, the new structure is assembled on temporary foundations adjacent to the existing bridge and, once complete, slid into place on lubricated skids, or “sliding shoes.”

The northbound and southbound U.S.-131 bridges over 3-Mile Road in Mecosta County, 60 miles north of Grand Rapids, and the M-50 bridge over I-96 in Lowell Township, 25 miles east of Grand Rapids, were replaced using this new method.

To maintain mobility in Lowell Township, M-50 traffic was shifted onto the east half of the new bridge in its temporary location while crews demolished the existing and worked on the new structure’s permanent foundations. This reduced the amount of time the bridge was out of service. Just two weekend closures were needed: one for demolition, and one for the slide. The new M-50 bridge has the unique distinction of carrying traffic over I-96 in two different locations.

CA Hull is the main contractor on the $4.3 million U.S. 131 project; Anlaan for the $8.2 million M-50 project.

Another bridge project on the M-100 north of Potterville in Eaton County is expected to be completed this fall.


Diverging Diamond
Michigan motorists are joining other drivers across the nation in using an innovative interchange that routes vehicles temporarily onto the opposite side of the road to improve safety and operations.

It’s known as the diverging diamond interchange (DDI), and has been used in Europe and other states. It reduces the number of “conflict points,” which create the potential for accidents, by routing traffic temporarily to the left side of the road at a highway interchange. The very first DDI in the U.S. opened in 2009 in Springfield, Missouri. Now there are more than 60 DDIs across the U.S.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is midway through construction on the state’s second DDI, located at Cascade Road over I-96 in Grand Rapids. MDOT has completed a DDI in Auburn Hills at Interstate 75 and University Drive.

The Cascade Road bridge, which is more than 50 years old, will be replaced with two new bridges. Once the first bridge is complete, traffic will be rerouted onto the new structure, and the old bridge will be demolished to make way for bridge number two.

Milbocker and Sons is the main contractor for the $15.8 million project.

More information: John Richard, MDOT, 616.262.1565.


A BAUER BG 18 H works in standard configuration as a commuter train travels across the Crum Creek Viaduct. One of SEPTA’s key concerns was ensuring that its customers could continue to pass safely across the existing viaduct during construction.

Specialized Drilling Rigs Meet Viaduct Replacement Challenges

Submitted by Brian M. Fraley, Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC

When Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) commuters rumble across the new Crum Creek Viaduct in Swarthmore later this year most will take for granted the project’s critical foundation work. Chicago-based Walsh Construction is currently building the $89.9-million viaduct to replace the existing 121-year-old, 925-foot-long, 100-foot-high structure.

The project’s keystone is foundation work for the substructure, which includes two abutments and four sets of piers. Meeting the challenges of this complex job required Walsh to rent two custom rotary drilling rigs from Equipment Corporation of America (ECA) in nearby Aldan, Pennsylvania. The BAUER Premium Line BG 18 H and BG 20 H Drilling Rigs cored through Schist with ECA supplied standard tooling including augers, core barrels, and drilling buckets, but it was the firm’s roller bit core barrels that allowed Walsh to maintain production in this extremely hard metamorphic rock.

The BAUER Drilling Rigs were selected to overcome challenging site conditions, which included drilling through various types of extremely hard rock; navigating steep inclines; operating with limited overhead; and monitoring vibration of the slopes and tracks to ensure safe passage of commuter trains during construction. Both rigs were light enough to navigate steep inclines while delivering adequate hydraulic output to core through hard rock of up to 25,000 psi. The low headroom capability of the BG 18 H also proved optimal for drilling in the height-restricted east and west abutments.

“Drilling is make or break,” Walsh Superintendent Richie Vance said as a SEPTA railcar rattles across the viaduct behind him. “Depending on how that goes, it’s almost how the whole job goes.”

SEPTA will suspend service for roughly 10 weeks this summer so Walsh can install new girders, bridge deck, and catenary towers. Rail cars are expected to travel over the new viaduct by Labor Day. The contractor will conclude the project by summer 2017 with demolition of the existing viaduct, removal of the access road, and restoration of the site to original condition.

More information: Brian M. Fraley, 610.906.7275.

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