Challenging bridge work on Connector |

Challenging bridge work on Connector

Rob Sabo

More than 11 million pounds of structural and reinforcing steel and 28,800 yards of concrete enough to cover 13-and-a-half football fields a foot thick will be used to construct Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Truckee River in East Sparks, the first step in bringing the Southeast Connector project to fruition.

Work begins Thursday for general contractor Kiewit Construction of Omaha on the long-awaited project designed to connect east Sparks with Veterans Parkway in south Reno.

The first phase of the $250 million project, which involves completion of the major bridge and a secondary bridge over Clean Water Way, is expected to be completed in 20 months at a cost of $65 million.

The work is funded through a regional gas tax approved in 2009, says Regional Transportation Commission Public Relations Officer Michael Moreno

For Garth Oksol, project manager for the RTC, Thursday’s mobilization by Kiewit is the culmination of six years work on the Southeast Connector. Designing the bridge to withstand floods and securing right-of-way access from private and public property owners have been two of the most crucial elements of the 5.5-mile project that was first proposed in 1965.

“It has been a long time coming,” Oksol says. “It is extremely exciting I don’t know how many presentations I have given and meetings I have attended. We are right there. I’m like a kid the day before Christmas.”

Intersection work begins this week at Sparks Boulevard and Gregg Street as construction crews begin building the access road leading to the river.

The roadbed will be raised nine feet, a figure that is based on the height of the river during the historic 1997 flood, and the bridge will extend 1,300 feet over nine spans. Its height will be four feet above the river levels of 1997, Oksol says.

“That was an issue we had to deal with, making sure we could get the flow conveyance underneath there so that we didn’t back up any water. We raised the bridge higher than normally. When the project is done, if a flood were to occur again we would not raise the elevation of the water or do anything that would adversely affect the flood project.”

Though the initial phase will be constructed of concrete, the roadway beyond the Veterans Memorial Bridge will be asphalt, Oksol says.

Securing the bridge’s footings in an area where there’s more than 1,000 feet of soft material before hitting bedrock also proved challenging for bridge designer T.Y. Lin International Group, a global design firm whose most notable project in Nevada is the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge in southern Nevada. T.Y. Lin also designed the new Bay Bridge span under construction between San Francisco and Oakland.

To counter the soft soil conditions in east Sparks, deep foundation specialists Case Foundation of Roselle, Ill., will drill a series of 47 shafts nine feet wide and 90 feet deep to stabilize the bridge structure. Utah Pacific Bridge and Steel of Lindon, Utah, will manufacture the large arched steel girders used to span the river. No work will be performed in the river itself, Oksol says.

Drilling the shafts is no easy task, says RTC Engineering Director Jeff Hale.

“High ground water is a problem,” Hale says. “That is an ancient floodplain, so there are lots of boulders and irregular-sized material they will have to drill through. This is one of the worst places to do that kind of construction.”

With work spanning the rest of this winter and all of winter 2013-2014, Kiewet had to put in place an emergency action plan in case of a flood.

Rather than an on-site headquarters, project executives from the firm will work from a field office near the Associated General Contractors offices at Mill Street and McCarran Boulevard. Materials will be staged from high ground near the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility south of the construction site. Kiewet also has a 24-hour evacuation plan in place to remove equipment from the site prior to a potential flood event.

The RTC spent much of last year finalizing right-of-way access for the project, Hale says. It purchased access through Rosewood Lakes Golf Course in the summer, and negotiated access agreements with the cities of Reno and Sparks and the University of Nevada, Reno. The final piece of the puzzle involves a small section of private land through the Butler Ranch.

Kiewet was chosen through the construction-manager-at-risk delivery method, Hale says. The Southeast Connector is the largest transportation project to use the method in state history.

“When we started the design, we got about 30 percent done and did a qualifications selection for contractors,” he says. “That is how we got Kiewet.”

Though the bridge designer and prime contractor are out-of-state companies, Hale says nearly 75 percent of the project will be performed by regional construction firms.

“The steel and foundations, there’s really no local company that could have stepped in and done those,” he says. “But we will have electrical, landscaping and paving that will be bid out.”