Bridge project earns state, national awards

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Engineering group gives accolades to environmental study, expediency

By Phyllis McLaughlin

The expediency with which the planning phase of the Milton-Madison Bridge replacement project was completed has caught the attention of the nation’s engineering firms.The American Council of Engineering Companies will present its 2011 National Recognition Award to representatives of the bridge project in Washington, D.C., during the organization’s Engineering Excellence Awards Gala on Friday, April 1.
The project also received an Honor Award from the Indiana Chapter of ACEC on March 5 and was awarded the Grand Award by Kentucky’s ACEC chapter Feb. 8.
The awards, primarily, are for the project’s National Environmental Policy Act phase, which was led by consultants from Wilbur Smith Associates of Lexington, Ky., and included engineers from the Michael Baker Jr. Inc. engineering firm based in Louisville, Ky., as well as transportation officials from Indiana and Kentucky.
Typically, the NEPA phase – which outlines in minute detail how every aspect of the project will impact its surroundings, particularly historic properties – takes at least four years to complete. Because of time constraints set forth when project officials decided to apply for federal stimulus funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, the NEPA phase was completed in just 19 months.
Innovative design, contracting and construction methods also have significantly reduced the amount
of time expected to complete the project, as well as the length of time the Ohio River crossing will be closed to traffic.
The bridge project, which originally was planned to start in 2013, is scheduled for completion in mid-September 2012, said Kevin Hetrick, project manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation.
The awards “are definitely warranted … It was a highly successful environmental project,” Hetrick said, adding that he anticipates the project to win more awards.
The best part of the project, Andy Barber, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said in a news release, is “we’ll be able to safely connect Milton and Madison with only minimal disruption.”
John Carr, project manager for Wilbur Smith, said the communities of Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., and their respective state transportation officials are the real recipients of the awards.
“We could have spent the next two years arguing about the location of the bridge, but the communities realized this was the best opportunity,” Carr said. “We were at the right place at the right time, and all the pieces came together.”
Several phases of the project – such as the building of temporary accessways on both sides of the river and the construction of cofferdams so crews can reinforce the existing 81-year-old piers – will occur simultaneously. Ultimately, the bridge itself will be closed to traffic for a total of just 10 days. The first closure of five days is expected in mid-July, when crews reroute traffic from the existing accessways to temporary ones. The second closure – also for five days – will occur in September 2012, when the truss structure is moved from temporary steel piers to the permanent, reinforced concrete piers. Once that is completed, the new bridge will open to traffic, which will be rerouted back from the temporary accessways.
Total cost of the project is expected to be $103 million, with $20 million coming from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.