Aiming to improve safety and reduce flooding in Guthrie, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) has rebuilt the SH-33 bridge over Cottonwood Creek, the Burlington North Santa Fe Railroad tracks and city streets.
“The old bridge was two lanes, narrow and structurally deficient,” says Trenton January, Division 4 Urban Construction and Maintenance Engineer for ODOT. “It was still safe for traffic, but it required a lot of maintenance.”
ODOT maintenance to the old bridge cost about $250,000 annually. Holes that frequently developed on the deck required immediate repairs, and beams also needed repairs from time to time.
“It was becoming a significant cost to our maintenance budget to keep the bridge in service,” January says.
The new bridge’s raised grade will improve sight distance and improve accesses to the west side of Guthrie by emergency responders. Additionally, Cottonwood Creek often floods. The new road will reduce flooding underneath the bridge. In the past, the water would rise up over local streets ahead of the bridge. With the longer length of the bridge, it should lessen the flooding leading up to it in the future.
“The old bridge did not extend far enough to cover the flooding of Cottonwood Creek,” explains Rich Horrocks, Vice President of Operations for Oklahoma for Manhattan Road and Bridge Co. of Tulsa, the contractor for the project. “The new one extends farther west.”
Manhattan Road and Bridge Co. received the $17.2 million contract late in 2016 and began construction in January 2017. The company performs bridge and heavy infrastructure projects in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida. It repairs, drives piles and completes turnkey bridge projects. Last year, the company received the Associated Oklahoma General Contractors’ 2016 Pharaoh Award for a bridge replacement project in Cherokee County.
The new four-lane, 1,682-foot-long, 70-foot-wide bridge is wider and longer than the former, 700-foot-long, two-lane structure, which was built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project during the Depression. It was a double-decker bridge with the lower deck for pedestrian traffic.
“This was a well-known bridge,” says Lisa Salim, Spokesperson for ODOT. “Everyone in Guthrie called it the viaduct. There is a lot of interest in improving the connectivity and increasing capacity on this bridge.”
The bridge is considered a gateway from the west side to downtown Guthrie, the largest contiguous registered historic district in the country, Salim says. The period of historic interest ranges from 1893 to 1910, when it served as the Oklahoma Territory’s and the state’s the first capital.
Currently, about 12,500 vehicles use the bridge daily, with that anticipated to increase to 16,800 vehicles by 2036.
“There is a lot of traffic on this bridge, so we had not only maintenance issues but also capacity issues,” January says.
A Complementary Design
The ODOT Bridge Division designed the bridge internally, rather then hiring a consultant.
“That is pretty cool that it stayed in house,” January says. “This one was a little more than they are used to designing. It was really good to have it come out of our Bridge Division.”
ODOT involved the public, local businesses and city officials in the plans for a new bridge. January said the city of Guthrie wanted a certain look to blend in with the historic district. Department officials also worked with the State Historic Preservation office to develop the design.
“We worked with the city on including things that would complement how the historic downtown looks,” January explains.
Historic buildings in Guthrie, including City Hall, served as inspiration for the new bridge’s appearance.
“The aesthetics are impressive,” Horrocks says.
The new bridge is aesthetically similar to the original bridge, Horrocks reports.
Manhattan extensively used decorative form lining on the sub- and super-structure and stained the concrete. The foundation features arches and appears to be made of stone, but form liners actually shaped the concrete. The concrete beams have been stained. Both sides of the bridge feature ornamental handrails with pilasters mimicking the old bridge, and decorative light poles.
Constructing the New Bridge
“Construction is always challenging in a downtown area,” January says. “You are working in a tight area with not a lot of room to put in large equipment and keep traffic on the old bridge.”
Manhattan divided the project into two phases. It built the first half of the new bridge next to the existing bridge. Then moved traffic to the new structure in December 2017. Crews then demolished the old bridge. With it out of the way, Manhattan moved forward with constructing the second half.
Throughout construction, crews protected the creek with silt fencing to keep sediment out of the channel.
There were no bridge closures. Some city streets were closed. All work took place on land. The concrete substructure was pored in place. Manhattan used a 220-ton Manitowoc crane to lift the concrete beams into place.
“We needed a larger crane than typical to reach over the creek and railroad tracks,” Horrocks explains.
Anytime work involves a live railroad track, measures must be taken to ensure safety of the workers and the trains. The railroad had an inspector and flagman on site at all times, and let the contractor know when a train was coming.
“It’s a team effort when we work near a railroad,” January says. “It takes a team effort so we are not slowing the train down, and they are not slowing us down.”
The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018. ODOT plans a dedication event for the opening.
“It has gone smoothly,” Salim says. “Once the project started, everyone was grateful to know they will have a nicer, safer facility to travel on.”
As with the design and other elements, collaboration with the contractor was a key factor in completing this bridge on time and within budget.
“With any project, we like to work well with the city, the contractors and everyone involved,” January says. “It’s a process. We try to get in front of it. If you can keep everyone on the same page and informed, the project runs a lot smoother.”
Photos courtesy of Oklahoma DOT
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