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Massive Flyovers Soar Above Texas Highways

Sat February 12, 2000 - West Edition
Cathy Bell


With Austin ranking in the nation’s top-ten fastest growing metro areas, it’s easy to see how infrastructure construction can lag behind commercial and residential development. New and old residents alike often complain about “roads that go nowhere” and “thoroughfares that all of a sudden end.” But a new interchange between Interstate 35 and US Highway 290 promises to bring much-needed improvements to at least one beleaguered roadway.

“It’s an ambitious project, because we’re adding direct connects that will include large flyovers between the two highways,” said John Abrams, president and CEO of J.D.Abrams Inc., contractor for the project. He said the flyovers range from heights of 26 to 36 meters (85 to 120 ft.) and are the first of its kind to make an appearance in the Austin area. The $28-million project is largely a bridge project with extremely challenging column designs topped with 90-metric-ton (100 ton) steel tub girders.

“The columns are supposed to look like Egyptian columns, like someone took a bunch of blocks and stacked them,” said Mike Lucky, project engineer. The columns feature an immense amount of rustication and chamfers and include windows that provide drivers better visibility.

Construction of each column starts with a steel Simon form which is then filled with concrete. Once the form is removed, the finished column looks like individual stacked blocks but is actually one massive piece of concrete.

Construction on the project began in May, and Lucky estimates the project is about 15 percent complete to date. The scheduled completion date is June 2001. In mid-November, traffic had to be completely re-routed around the interchange to provide access for a 180-metric-ton (200 ton) Link-Belt crawler crane to be moved in — one of several cranes utilized on the job.

“The 200-ton is the only one that will reach the top of our columns,” said Lucky. He said the project also employs other Link-Belt cranes — including 90- and 72-metric ton (100 and 80 ton) crawlers, as well as 45-, 36- and 27- metric ton (50, 40 and 30 ton) hydraulic pickers. “We keep them all busy,” he said.

Once crews complete the column work, Lucky said they will begin the difficult and challenging task of setting the 90-metric ton (100 ton) steel tub girders in place on top of the columns. It is this aspect of the job that is new to bridgework in the Austin area.

“Houston has been doing these for a little while, but you don’t see them that often,” said Lucky. He said the girders were specified for the job because they result in a more attractive bridge.

In addition to the I-35/US290 interchange, J. D.Abrams has contracts on two other road projects that will help infrastructure needs catch up to growth in the Austin area—an $88-million project to upgrade the I-35/Ben White Blvd. interchange, which TXDOT awarded to the company last August, and a $51 million improvement to the US183/Hunters Chase/RM620 exchange that began construction in November.




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