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Reconstruction of the Ohio Turnpike Bridge Over the Cuyahoga River Valley
by Robert Sobnosky, PE, Cuyahoga Valley Section

As part of the Ohio Turnpike Commission's ongoing Modernization Program, the Ohio Turnpike Structure over the Cuyahoga River Valley is being completely rebuilt.

The original bridge, built from 1952-1955, is a twin structure steel truss system with multiple girders and 12 solid pier columns. The existing pavement contains two 12' lanes and 10' and 8' shoulders. The cost of the original structure was $6 million.

After careful review of the existing structure and the desired configuration to widen the pavement to three lanes in each direction, the Ohio Turnpike Commission decided to rebuild instead of rehabilitate this structure for the following reasons:

  • Lead Paint: The costs to remove and repaint the structural steel was $10 million in 1990. These costs would be even greater today given the stricter controls and containment systems required for this process. Furthermore, containment of any aging paint system would be a concern with respect to the ecologically sensitive Cuyahoga Valley National Park beneath the bridge.

  • Concrete Spalling on the Underside of the Bridge Deck: Minor spalling is a safety concern for pedestrian, auto, and railroad traffic crossing beneath the structure.

  • Concrete Pier Damage: The existing piers, last rehabilitated in 1979, are showing signs of aging.

  • Feasibility of Widening the Deck on the Existing Structure: The existing substructure could not support the addition of a third lane and a 10' shoulder and a 14' shoulder.

  • Safety: Rehabilitative construction activity would require either conducting construction activity and live traffic on the same structure simultaneously or placing bidirectional traffic on one of the twin structures while rehabilitating the other. Given the length, height, and width of the existing structures, neither of these traffic scenarios was acceptable.

  • Cost: Rehabilitation costs were estimated to be about 75% of the cost of building a new structure.

The new bridge, designed by HNTB, features a process new to Ohio. The prestressed concrete girders were "dropped-in" place and then post-tensioned. To build the long spans in the center portion of the bridge, balanced cantilever beams were placed on two adjacent piers. A drop-in beam then was used to close the gap between the cantilevered beams. The drop-in beams were held in place by crane until secured at both ends. Finally, the entire 900' section of cantilevered and drop-in beams was post-tensioned. This post-tensioned section is 900' in length and 175' above the floor of the Cuyahoga Valley.

The use of the concrete girders over more traditional steel girders resulted in a cost savings of about $1.4 million. The new structures have the following features:

  • $52 million cost
  • 2,664' in length
  • Maximum height of 175' above the valley floor
  • 17 hollow piers for each structure
  • Three 12' lanes and one 10' shoulder and one 14'-3" shoulder
  • 5,600 CY of concrete in the beams for each structure
  • 5,027 CY of concrete in the deck of each structure
  • 1.8 million pounds of reinforcing steel in the deck of each structure
  • 14,560 CY of concrete in the substructure of each pier
  • 42.95 miles of post-tensioning strand for each structure
  • Post-tension strands are loaded to 790,000 foot-pounds of tension

As with any construction project, several obstacles had to be overcome thus far. Highlights of the project to this point are as follows:

  • Wetland Mitigation: The structure, relocated 100' south of its present location, disturbed 3.56 acres of wetlands. To compensate for this, 8.46 acres of wetlands were enhanced to a higher quality than the disturbed wetlands at another location in the national park.

  • Cuyahoga River Crossing: A portion of the project required the contractor to access land bound by the Cuyahoga River to the east and a steep slope to the west. The contractor utilized a temporary low-flow river crossing approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. The low-flow crossing consisted of 12 lengths of 48" x 60' steel conduit placed in the Cuyahoga River parallel to the banks. The pipe was covered with 2' of type C rock. This allowed for construction vehicles to cross the river at low flow.

  • The Tow Path: A section of temporary Tow Path was built parallel to the existing Tow Path under the bridge. This ensured that either the original or temporary Tow Path would be continuously open for use.

  • Right-of-Way Restrictions: The south side of the west approach to the bridge was constrained by Right-of-Way. Geogrid engineering fill was used so that the roadway embankment did not extend beyond the limits of the Turnpike's property.

  • Riverview Road Landslide Correction: The contract for this project encompassed work for the Summit County Engineer. Riverview Road, which runs under the structure, required correction of a landslide threatening the embankment supporting the road itself. The landslide was corrected with Tensar-Geogrid reinforcement. To complete the Riverview Road correction, 550' of full-depth roadway was reconstructed and grading and drainage improvements were put in place.

  • Demolition of Existing Structure: The concrete deck will be saw cut and removed by hydraulic excavators. The demolition of most of the steel truss will be accomplished using shape charges. The first section of the steel truss was demolished by this method on November 12, 2001. The remainder of the steel truss was demolished on January 12, 2002.

Construction of the new bridge began in October 1999. The new eastbound structure opened to traffic on October 12, 2001. The westbound structure is scheduled to be open to traffic in October 2003. The final completion date will be in 2004.

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