A new phase of construction is scheduled to begin Monday along I-80 between 1300 East and State Street so that crews can begin piecing together seven westbound bridges in the area.

This new phase of leap-frog construction on I-80 will begin with the closure of 1300 East's westbound onramp. Closures will then begin at Highland Drive on Wednesday and spread to other roadways that intersect the interstate as Utah Department of Transportation construction crews reach them.

Most roads will remain closed throughout construction, which is expected to conclude in the first week in August.

"I think it's important to stress that we have reduced impacts to traffic. These restrictions would have been longer-lived with typical building methods for building bridges," said John Montoya, UDOT project manager over the I-80 reconstruction project. "Bear with us during this intense time so we can get in, get out and be done."

For this project, UDOT is using accelerated bridge construction methods to reduce the overall impact and time frame, Montoya said.

"Bridges are normally built like houses, from the foundation on up," said Randy Park, Region 2 director for UDOT. "But this (rapid bridge) technology lets us build the roof at the same time as the foundation and the walls, reducing the construction time immensely."

These methods have allowed construction crews to leave north and south roadways open for longer periods as they laid the bridges' foundations and built up the supports, Park said. During this second phase of construction crews will be placing the new road surface atop the support structures that are already standing along the construction route. Montoya estimated that this method has shaved a year off the predicted construction time for the project.

To move the seven bridge tops into their respective locations, workers will use a trailer capable of bearing the 3 million- to 4 million-pound bridges along I-80. As each new bridge installment reaches the gap it will fill, skid shoes — a type of pulley — move the pieces into place where they can be lowered to their final locations. Montoya expects that each bridge placement will take about 12 hours and additional days for reinforcing overpasses for the next installment.

Because the overpasses along the interstate aren't designed to bear such a large load, they will be reinforced from below as construction moves farther west. This is the reason UDOT has to close roads between Highland Drive and State Street through construction, Montoya said.

"The bridges being replaced were built in the late '60s and have reached their lifetime. They weren't made to last forever," Montoya said. "The bridges being replaced were designed to last for about 40 years, and they've exceeded that life span."

The new bridges replacing the current structures have a life expectancy of more than 75 years, Montoya said.

During construction, UDOT plans to keep five lanes of traffic flowing at all times along I-80, and with reversible lanes they will be able to accommodate traffic flow by adding a third lane to the direction that is busiest.

For more information and updates on the construction progress and closures, refer to UDOT's Web page at www.udot.utah.gov.

E-mail: [email protected]