A summer-long saga of bridge replacement projects by the Utah Department of Transportation is just about complete, with the final chapter to be written next week.
After a successful weekend wrapping up the last two I-80 bridge swaps at Mountain Dell and Lamb's Canyon a full eight hours ahead of schedule, the replacement of the I-215 bridge at 3300 South, scheduled for Friday, will be the 12th and final major bridge replacement this summer. All of the replacements have utilized a novel new technique that greatly reduces the amount of time the process affects commuters.
Next weekend, the new 3300 South bridge will be moved from its current location near 3900 South and put into place using remote-controlled, self-powered transporters. The transporters are the engineering marvel of the Dutch company Mammoet, which was also involved with the construction of the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, built for this year's Olympic track and field competition in Beijing.
UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said the accelerated bridge construction technique has been used elsewhere, but Utah stands alone in the scope of this summer's undertaking.
"We're definitely some of the pioneers in this area," Carrillo said. "This many bridge replacements ...12 in a little over two months is pretty unheard of."
Carrillo said his agency has had designers and engineers engaged with the projects at every step, and new levels of efficiency have been achieved by a "learn-as-you-go" process.
"Every time we do a closure, we analyze how to do it better," Carrillo said. "We're constantly looking for ways to reduce impact to the public and minimize delays. This weekend's fast turnaround is an example of using what we learned."
Carrillo said Utah has a unique set of challenges that has forced UDOT to get creative and has made the accelerated bridge-construction technology the best choice for this summer's bridge work.
"In Utah, we just don't have that many alternative routes for drivers," Carrillo said. "Other states can reroute traffic and keep closures going for months ... that's just not an option here."
Carrillo said that UDOT will make good use of what they've learned this summer in future projects and that while not every bridge replacement is suited for the new technique, he was sure it would continue to be utilized where appropriate.
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