Work Speeds Ahead on Replacing Century-Old Bridges With Tunnel

I-580 Extension Project Recognized by AASHTO

Fri July 27, 2012 - West Edition
Jennifer Rupp


The Galena Creek Bridge is one of nine bridges included in the I-580 expansion project.
The Galena Creek Bridge is one of nine bridges included in the I-580 expansion project.
The Galena Creek Bridge is one of nine bridges included in the I-580 expansion project. With a length of 1,722 ft. (525 m), the Galena Creek Bridge now holds the record for the longest concrete cathedral arch bridge in the United States.

The extension of I-580 from the Mt. Rose Highway to Bowers Mansion cutoff will connect Reno and Carson City, effectively completing I-580 in Washoe County. NDOT has been planning for several decades to improve I-580 to freeway standards for its entire length in Nevada. Piece by piece, the long-range plan is taking shape. This new freeway segment covers 8.5 mi. (13.7 km) and is scheduled to officially open to traffic in mid-August 2012.

Development of I-580 in Washoe County has been a work in progress since 1957. The first segment of the freeway constructed was from the Carson City/Washoe County line to Lakeview in 1964, followed by the Lakeview to Winters Ranch segment, which opened in 1970.

Additional segments faced opposition to the alignment recommendation, and lawsuits were filed in the early ’70’s. One corridor was approved in the late ’70’s, but Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on further sections were not released until 1983.

From 1983 until present, the freeway has progressed southward through a series of construction projects, first from South Virginia Street to Del Monte Lane, then northward from Del Monte Lane to South Virginia Street, and most recently from South Virginia Street to the Mt. Rose Highway. The final link from Winters Ranch to the Mt. Rose Highway will complete the freeway improvements in Washoe County.

The I-580 Freeway Extension Project marks the final segment in NDOT’s plan to construct a safe freeway from Carson City in the south through the Reno-Sparks area, to Panther Valley in the north.

The existing highway was under great strain because of increased commuter traffic and development in south Truckee Meadows, Pleasant Valley and north Washoe Valley. Anticipated growth will burden the route even further with continuing negative impacts on congestion and traffic safety. The freeway extension will provide a safer and more efficient route to serve growing traffic needs.

The project originally went out for bid in June 2003 and Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc. was awarded $79.5 million for what was referred to as “Package A.” Construction on this contract began in November 2003.

However, in May 2006, NDOT and Kraemer mutually agreed to terminate their contract due to a disagreement on the constructibility of the pilot truss for the Galena Creek Bridge. Kraemer received $50 million for work completed. Contract termination was approved by the State Transportation Board on June 6, 2006.

In an effort to get the project on track and completed, all remaining work was combined into one contract, 3292. An extensive contractor outreach program was put into place to find a qualified contractor — Fisher Sand & Gravel — who then commenced work with a $393 million contract. Fisher subcontracted C.C. Myers of Reno for bridgework.

The remaining work included within Contract 3292 includes five bridges; grading and paving for the 8.5 mi. of roadway between the Bowers Mansion interchange and the Mt. Rose interchange; construction of the Bowers Mansion interchange; and the completion of the Mt. Rose/I-580 interchange. Contract 3292 also includes sculpting of the rock cuts, re-vegetating slopes, and construction of retaining walls on the downhill slopes.

A now-famous portion of this project is the Galena Creek Bridge. Measuring 1,722 ft. (525 m) long, with a 300-ft. (91.4 m) high arch, this bridge is the longest concrete cathedral arch bridge in the U.S.

A tremendous amount of public interest was generated by the project design for this segment of the freeway extension. Communities affected by the freeway extension have historically proven to be highly active and involved from the project start. Recognizing this, NDOT’s multi-faceted public involvement program included the Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) as a mechanism to keep project stakeholders directly involved.

On this final segment of I-580, NDOT implemented a design approach different from historic design and construction projects. Through a process referred to as Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) or Context Sensitive Design (CSD), NDOT developed and implemented an integrated public outreach plan to solicit public involvement and communicate openly with stakeholders. During final design, NDOT integrated stakeholder input into the proposed roadway alignments and bridge designs to develop a project that blends with the terrain, minimizes impacts and has community support, while maintaining safety and mobility.

The I-580 project was awarded “Notable Practices” by AASHTO for demonstrating the successful application of Context Sensitive Solutions in a freeway application.

Many of the aesthetic treatments have taken shape during construction. More than 3 million cubic meters of earth have been hauled from the north end of the project to the south end of the project.

When the project is complete, the price tag will be close to $550 million — after totaling the contracts with Kraemer and Fisher, change orders, designs and right-of-ways. The entire project is scheduled to wrap up and open to traffic in late summer 2012.