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Centric Jones Plays ’Beat the Clock’ on Colorado I-70 Span

Sat January 27, 2001 - West Edition
Troy M. Hawks

The final phase of the reconstruction on elevated I-70, between Washington Street and Brighton Boulevard, has just begun and contractor Centric Jones Company of Lakewood, CO, is already feeling pressed for time, according to project manager Dale Merrill.

In all, the $31.9-million project involves the reconstruction of the westbound lanes of I-70, the Washington Street bridge and the 50-year-old westbound viaduct. The ramp from westbound I-70 to Washington Street will be rebuilt and a new ramp from Brighton Boulevard to westbound I-70 will be constructed, replacing the existing, outdated ramp at Humboldt Street. Construction also consists of the creation of 5,610 ft. (1,700 m) of mechanical soil reinforcement, or MSC walls.

Before this work begins, Merrill said his crews must build an interim 300-ft. (91.4 m) long temporary bridge at the Washington Street exit in only 120 calendar days. The one-lane steel girder and concrete deck bridge will temporarily carry traffic until the Washington Street bridge is replaced. The permanent bridge will be built off site in 75-ft. (22.75 m), 8-ft. 8-in. (2.64 m) wide sections. It will take three sections to comprise the four-lane width.

Contributing to the tight scheduling is that Washington Street serves as a main traffic route to the Denver Coliseum, home of the National Western Stock Show. In fact, the final phase of the project includes reconstructing 46th Avenue under I-70 and adding a pedestrian undercrossing for safer foot traffic between the Coliseum and the stock show.

For nearly 100 years, thousands of cattlemen from around the country converge to the Coliseum each January to partake in the month-long stock show. Last year, the event set a new attendance record of 631,801 participants and spectators. In order to not disrupt traffic during the event, work on the temporary bridge cannot begin until after the stock show, or until mid-February. Yet, to keep the reconstruction project on schedule, the bridge must be complete by mid-June.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) the temporary ramps will be constructed to minimize traffic impacts however, there will be a period of several months when both the off-ramp at Washington Street and the Humboldt Street on-ramp are simultaneously closed. While construction of the temporary ramps is under way, detours will be provided. Notice of these closures will be sent out in advance.

CDOT reports that crews have already begun installing underground utilities along the I-70 median west of Washington Street and along 46th Avenue. Once the 2001 Stock Show is over, both directions of traffic along I-70 will be realigned onto the eastbound lanes of I-70 so the reconstruction of the westbound lanes can begin.

According to CDOT Project Engineer Fred Holden, the viaduct that will ultimately be replaced is more than 50 years old. However, Merrill reports that for the most part, the viaduct is still structurally sound.

“The joints are still in good shape, but they are still due for replacement under code, but the main reason for this project is to widen I-70,” said Merrill.

“Improvements to the Mousetrap, which include the replacement of the I-70 viaduct, will have taken more than a decade to complete and I am very pleased to be getting this project under way,” said CDOT Executive Director Tom Norton. “I am sure that the people who live and work nearby, and the 150,000 plus motorists who drive through this area every day, will be equally pleased that this final phase is beginning and an end is in sight.”

Centric Jones has worked on many top highway bridge projects in Colorado for more than 25 years. From reconstructing interstate interchanges in urban areas to aesthetic and environmentally sensitive construction in deep canyons and along major water flows, the company has built several award-winning projects and has experience in virtually all types of bridge construction. Work on this project is scheduled to be completed in July of 2003.

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