Lifting Bridges Is Making Room for More Freight on the Kansas Turnpike

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Nov. 28, 2016) — Design and construction crews are making room for more freight trucks on the Interstate 35 section of the Kansas Turnpike — one inch at a time.

South of Wichita, the Kansas Turnpike Authority is elevating 10 bridges that cross I-35 by anywhere from 12 inches to 15 inches each. That’s to reach a practical clearance that meets most of the needs of the freight industry while also empowering business, streamlining maintenance needs and improving safety.

“Increasing the height of the specific bridges that cross over the turnpike was identified as a way to aid freight movement on the turnpike and decrease commercial traffic on local roads and highways,” says Steve Hewitt, CEO of the KTA.

In April, the KTA hired Burns & McDonnell to handle engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) for lifting the 10 spans. The team is boosting clearances from as low as 14 feet, 6 inches, to a height of at least 15 feet, 9 inches. At least three bridge lifts will be completed this year, with the remainder to be finished in summer 2017.

Turnpike officials say the EPC method allows more work to be done, faster, than otherwise could be accomplished using traditional contracting methods. The contract calls for the KTA to spend no more than $3.7 million, with the possibility for value-engineering savings to be returned back to the KTA or used to complete additional work.

“This is a low-cost project with high value all around,” says Rod Lacy, manager of the Highway Department at Burns & McDonnell. “Our subcontractors are providing excellent work while gaining valuable design-build experience. And the turnpike is getting a turnkey project, one that’s efficient, saves time and provides value engineering — all while keeping everyone informed and engaged.”

On-site, hydraulic pumps do the heavy lifting — carefully pushing up to 578,000 pounds of steel girders and concrete deck higher, one inch at a time.

For each bridge, a day is spent pumping, shimming, inspecting and repeating — hours of work you can see condensed into seconds in this time-lapse video — until the bridge rests on new bearings and is secured on its concrete piers. Then, at both ends of the bridge, approaches are regraded, modern guardrails are installed and new road signs are posted — all without any need for new rights-of-way, easements or utility relocations. Through it all, traffic continues to flow on the turnpike below.

The 10 bridges have been in place since the turnpike opened in 1956, and recommendations for elevating them emerged as KTA officials worked with the statewide Freight Advisory Committee to set priorities for capital improvements. The KTA intends to elevate more bridges as part of its comprehensive $1.2 billion long-term improvements program during the next decade.

About Burns & McDonnell

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