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TxDOT Replaces Six Bridges on I-40 Near Amarillo

Tue October 09, 2018 - West Edition #21
Chuck Harvey – CEG Correspondent


The bridges — located on I-40 at Whitaker Road; SL 335 (Lakeside Drive); and FM 1258 (Pullman Road) — have been in use for decades and are aging. I-40 in the Amarillo area was built in 1959.
The bridges — located on I-40 at Whitaker Road; SL 335 (Lakeside Drive); and FM 1258 (Pullman Road) — have been in use for decades and are aging. I-40 in the Amarillo area was built in 1959.
The bridges — located on I-40 at Whitaker Road; SL 335 (Lakeside Drive); and FM 1258 (Pullman Road) — have been in use for decades and are aging. I-40 in the Amarillo area was built in 1959. A $50.4-million Texas Department of Transportation project will replace six bridges along a 4.26-mi. portion of I-40, east of Amarillo.

The need for today's highways to handle taller and heavier trucks has necessitated major new bridge projects in the Amarillo, Texas, area including a $50.4-million Texas Department of Transportation project to replace six bridges along a 4.26-mi. portion of I-40, east of Amarillo.

The bridges — located on I-40 at Whitaker Road; SL 335 (Lakeside Drive); and FM 1258 (Pullman Road) — have been in use for decades and are aging. I-40 in the Amarillo area was built in 1959.

Interstate 40 runs west–east through the panhandle in the northwest part of the state. The only large city it passes through is Amarillo, where it meets the north end of Interstate 27.

Work on the project is expected to be completed in 2021. Construction started on May 2 of this year and the project is expected to last 36 months.

The new bridges and facilities are designed with modern-day use in mind. They will be approximately the same width as the existing bridges — wide enough to handle three eastbound and three westbound lanes on I-40.

They also will provide some increased vertical clearance for trucks passing under them. Minimum vertical clearance will be 17-ft., 3 in. at Whitaker Road; 17-ft., 9 in. at SL 335; and 17-ft, 5 in. at FM 1258.

The current bridges did not meet today's transportation requirements. Besides not being the right height, they cannot carry loads of more than 80,000 lbs.

Along with the bridge replacements, the project includes overlay work on the interstate's eastbound and westbound main-lanes from Nelson Street to the U.S. 287 split, reversal of the westbound ramps between spur 468 (Airport Drive and Juett Attebury Drive) and Whitaker Road, and ramp profile modifications for the remaining ramps.

The overlay of the existing roadway is routine preventative maintenance-type work. Reversal of the westbound ramps between spur 468 and Whitaker Road was needed for a variety of reasons:

  • The relocation of the ramps is expected to provide operational improvements to the westbound frontage road.
  • Relocation allows for better access to the westbound frontage road during the phased construction of the six-bridge project.
  • The ramps near SL 335 were required to be relocated because of the change of profile of the I-40 mainlines in the area. The I-40 mainlines were raised as a part of the project to provide increased vertical clearance for SL 335 traffic under the proposed bridges.

In addition, the eastbound exit to Lakeside Drive will be moved west about 600 ft. to improve the flow of traffic in the area. And the center median will be improved. It will be upgraded through most of the project and the bridges at Lakeside Drive will be split with a raised median to help accommodate future projects in the area.

The project is designed to improve traffic operations, mobility and safety.

“The existing structures were built with the original interstate construction,” said Sonja Gross TxDOT public information officer. “Due to their age, traffic volumes and other factors such as climate, the condition of these structures had degraded. Recently, these structures were load restricted so that no vehicle heavier than the legal weight limit could cross these structures.”

In preparation for the bridge work, crews closed the right lane of I-40 eastbound on April 2. Then on April 4, workers closed the right lane of I-40 eastbound, starting just north of the entrance ramp and east of the airport.

TxDOT warns that work zones can be hazardous, both for workers and motorists who drive through the complex array of signs, barrels and lane changes within the construction zone. The department emphasizes the need to be attentive, drive with caution and follow posted work zone speed limits.

Long-Time Texas Construction Company Is Prime Contractor

J. Lee Milligan Inc. of Amarillo is contractor of the project. The company has become one of the largest heavy highway construction firms in the area.

JLM's primary business focus remains directed at the heavy construction trades in the panhandle and south plains of Texas.

Subcontractors working on the project include Barricades Unlimited of Amarillo; Antigo Construction of Antigo, Wisc.; HJC Farms Inc. of Hawley, Texas; M&D Foundation of Waller, Texas; Primate Construction Inc. of Humble, Texas; Wolfe Construction of Graham, Texas; Oscar Orduno of Irvine, Texas; Willis Electric of Allen, Texas; and Fuller & Sons Construction of Amarillo.

Current work on the project includes groundwork, ramp connections and detour pavement so that traffic can be moved to one side of the interstate. Heavy equipment at the project site includes bulldozers, backhoes, delivery trucks and paving equipment.

Between 20 and 50 workers will be on the job daily depending on the scheduled work to be performed.

About 115.5-million sq. ft. of reinforced concrete slab will be poured over the course of the project.

Aging Bridges Need Replacement

The six-bridge project is the latest addition to a growing list of bridge and other projects for the Texas Department of Transportation. Three more major road projects are in the planning stages.

Gross reported that bridge infrastructure in the area is at least 50 years old.

The area of the project has seen growth.

“There has been more industrial and commercial development along the east loop and along I-40 east in recent years,” Gross said. “Traffic volume has increased over the years and is expected to continue with that trend.”

The six-bridge project is not the only major undertaking conducted at I-40 and SL 335 in recent years.

“This bridge project continues our efforts to bring all bridges along the I-40 corridor up to today's height and load standards,” Gross said. “Other bridge projects along this corridor through Amarillo are currently under way, from east to west include Ross Street, Arthur Street, Direct Connect (I-40 eastbound to I-27 southbound) at the downtown interchange, Bell Street and SL 335 (Soncy Road).

Project Phases

Once detour pavement is in place, two phases will be conducted at each bridge. Traffic will be moved to one side of the interstate (two lanes in each direction) with the other side closed for construction.

The bridges will be constructed across all lanes on the side that is closed. Traffic will then be moved to the side with the new bridges.

At that time, crews will construct a twin structure across all lanes of the other direction.

CEG