Big Move on I-235: 'Off Broadway' in Full Swing
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK The I-235 Off-Broadway project in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, needs another week to warm up for the big production of moving the new BNSF railroad bridge into place over the interstate. Engineers have called off this weekend's planned installation of the four-million pound steel bridge until wind forecasts are more favorable.
"The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is excited to bring this innovative bridge-moving technique to Oklahoma for the first time. The Utah Department of Transportation were pioneers in this process and we sent personnel there a few years ago to learn more about what is involved. The advantages of this technique are significantly shortening the interstate closure time needed," said ODOT Chief Engineer Casey Shell.
Winds more than 20 mph pose too much of a safety risk to successfully move the 45-foot-tall bridge structures the quarter mile from the construction site to their new home over I-235 just south of N. 50th St.
"This particular location and circumstances were ideal for a truss structure because they better support the heavier loads of rail traffic," said ODOT Bridge Engineer Steve Jacobi. "The trusses also provide more support without taking up as much space below the bridge structure and while accommodating the 550-foot length required to bridge the widening of the interstate up to eight lanes."
The project will take a dramatic turn as all lanes of the highway are scheduled to be closed for an extended weekend from south of I-44 to N. 36th St. to allow for a spectacular feat of engineering to take place. Drivers will need to use I-35, I-40, I-44, SH-74/Lake Hefner Parkway and Lincoln Blvd. during this closure. However, even this planned closure date will be very weather dependent for safety reasons, and possibly could be delayed until more favorable conditions arrive.
"The transportation and placement of the two truss spans is the pivotal event of this project. Getting to this critical stage has been a monumental task that involved significant planning and preparation by Allen Contracting Inc. and our team member American Bridge Company, which culminates with this undertaking. With this milestone accomplished, we are able to move forward with other key elements and ultimate completion of the I-235 widening and reconstruction project," said Allen Contracting Inc. Project Coordinator Reed Greenhill.
Due to their size and weight, it will be a slow and steady operation to move the two bridge spans into place taking up to a full day per span. The bridge structures will be hoisted up on self-propelled mobile transporters and inched along the highway into their new position over the interstate. This is the first time this innovative bridge-moving technique is being used in Oklahoma, allowing the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to schedule short closures of the highway during the more than two-year interstate widening and reconstruction project.
"In recent years, Oklahoma is using additional innovative techniques to keep interstates and highways open to traffic with shorter closures whenever circumstances allow," said ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier. "So far, this is the largest project in ODOT history and this part its most defining milestone."
In June 2017, the first of six planned closures of I-235 occurred for the removal of the N. 50th St. bridge over the interstate. This left up to five more weekend closures of I-235 in the contract to accomplish installing the new BNSF railroad bridge, removing the old railroad bridge and hanging the new N. 50th St. bridge beams.
Allen Contracting Inc. of Oklahoma City recently proposed combining the two weekends for the new railroad bridge installation into a three-day closure.
"By allowing the contractor to consolidate this work into a three-day weekend closure, the public will benefit by fewer full interstate closures through the remainder of the project," said ODOT Division 4 Engineer Brian Taylor. "We now anticipate completing the work with up to four full closures instead of the six originally allowed for in the contract. If we can accomplish the work safely with fewer closures, we will."
In addition to the closure of northbound and southbound I-235 between N. 36th St. and just south of the I-44 interchange, motorists can expect the following ramp closures: Eastbound I-44 to southbound I-235; Westbound I-44 to southbound I-235; and Northbound I-235 on-ramp from N. 36th St.
ODOT recognizes that moving large bridge structures down I-235 will be quite a show. There will be a public viewing area set up on the east side of I-235 at N. 50th St. As this is an active work zone, for their safety and the safety of the crews visitors to this area will not be allowed to access any other areas of the site. Bleachers for public seating will be opened and the viewing area will be closed after dark each day. Parking is available along city streets in this vicinity. Those visiting the viewing area are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes and dress appropriately for the chilly temperatures. Photography will be allowed from the viewing area, however, drones will not be allowed within ODOT right-of-way due to safety concerns and based on railroad regulations.
This move is part of a nearly $88 million widening and reconstruction project on I-235 between I-44 and N. 36th Street in Oklahoma City awarded to Allen Contracting Inc. The project began in January 2017 and is expected to complete in 2019.
Once complete, I-235 will be widened to six lanes plus auxiliary lanes and includes improvements to the ramps in this area. It also will feature new bridges at N. 50th St. and the BNSF railroad bridge plus a significantly improved drainage system to address highway flooding issues.
"American Bridge Company has a long history of successful complex bridge installation projects. Our company most recently used this same technique to relocate a truss bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, from land to barges. Next weekend, weather pending, American Bridge will use eight self-propelled mobile transporters to transport both BNSF railroad truss spans, each about 2 million pounds, a quarter mile down I-235 into their final position. The truss spans will be transported close to final elevation, which is about 16 feet," said American Bridge Company Project Manager Adam Roebuck.