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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Highland Drive bridge deck weighs 3 million pounds. UDOT began the project on June 22.

Despite delays and a slow pace, a few dozen people crowded around the construction site to see crews move the Highland Drive bridge farther along its path Tuesday.

As crews work to place the bridge on I-80, eastbound and westbound traffic in the area will be reduced to two lanes. Once the bridge is secured in its final spot, the Utah Department of Transportation will open another lane to accommodate rush hour traffic in either direction.

About 10 p.m. Monday, crews moved the massive, 3 million pound structure back to Highland Drive. The project began on June 22 when workers first moved the new overpass from the bridge farm to its current location, but the launch was delayed after engineers noticed the front-most carrying beam had begun to contort. UDOT officials predicted the bridge could have been placed with the bend but decided to "play it safe."

"I don't think we're too far off of our original pace," said John Montoya, project manager for the site. "We're about 18 hours into this, and I think by the time we've spent a day or two out here it will be in place."

On Tuesday the project experienced an additional delay when a hydraulic pump that pushes the structure along two parallel beams failed. It took UDOT about an hour to replace the pump and begin moving the structure again.

When the project began again crews used dish soap, a Teflon coated track and two pairs of "skid shoes" to launch the bridge above the gap. Montoya described the skid shoes like roller skates, saying they guide the bridge gently across the gap to six waiting "lift jacks" that will eventually lower the structure into its final location.

Because of the leapfrog construction technique UDOT is using to build the seven bridges being replaced along I-80, a delay at any section will inevitably delay future projects along the interstate.

Beginning today, UDOT will begin using the lift jacks to lower the structure the remaining 25 feet. The lift jacks are surrounded on all sides by 45 pound blocks of ironwood, as crews lower the bridge it will be like a game of controlled Jenga.

Montoya is hoping to have the bridge in place by Thursday.

"We've compressed the schedule down from months to days, and those days are very long because of it," said Shana Lindsey, director of research and bridge operations.

Lindsey said that this type of project is a learning process at every step because it is a first for many on the staff.

"The technology that's letting us slide and lower (the bridge) is new, and we're learning a lot from this project and how to apply these methods to other projects," Lindsey said.

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