UDOT moves million pound bridge in Cedar City with dish soap and a little elbow grease – St George News

CEDAR TOWN — Those traveling south on Interstate 15 Wednesday night had to take a short detour to Cedar City as the Utah Department of Transportation put in place a 1.1 million pound bridge using a hydraulic system and some Dawn dish soap.

The sun sets as workers prepare for the Interstate 15 bridge slide, Cedar City, Utah, July 13, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation, Cedar City News

Work on the bridge replacement project on East Nichols Canyon Road began last July, according to a press release issued by UDOT. I-15 was closed from exit 62 to exit 59 at 9 p.m. Wednesday as crews completed the final leg of the project. The freeway reopened around 6 a.m. Thursday morning.

Last year, UDOT built a central bridge between the northern and southern highways. Northbound traffic was diverted to the central bridge while the northbound bridge was demolished and rebuilt, the statement said.

After which, southbound traffic was moved to the center while crews demolished the existing bridge and rebuilt the support structure that would hold the new bridge deck, resident engineer Tyrell Wood said.

“So that central bridge will no longer exist, so to speak,” he said.

By designing the project this way, UDOT was able to reduce traffic disruptions to about nine hours, despite construction taking more than a year, Wood said.

Wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests, crews generously applied dish soap to the Teflon pads to keep “everything slippery and moving, Wood said. As part of the hydraulic system, long “screws” turned, which pushed the bridge to its final location. The slab was only allowed to move several inches at a time, which varied as crews worked to ensure the spacing on each side was approximately equal.

Workers use Teflon pads and Dawn dish soap as part of the Bridge Slide on Interstate 15, Cedar City, Utah, July 13, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

“Dawn dish soap is the secret ingredient,” he said.

The project took 394 workdays and required approximately 39,176 man-hours, according to a fact sheet sent to Cedar City News by Lisa Hunt Beck, president and senior project manager of Harmony Public Involvement.

However, Wood said sliding the bridge into place was the “easy part”, adding that once complete, teams had to paint the white and yellow lines, hook the railing and move the concrete barrier.

“There’s a lot of work that people really don’t go to see and don’t care about,” he said.

At the end of the process, there was at most a 3/100 inch difference between each corner of the structure, Beck said, adding that a difference of just 3/4 inch would have been considered a failure.

Wood said not only were contingency plans in place, but engineers had “contingency plans for the unexpected.” Also, the bridge slid into position faster than he had expected.

The East Nichols Canyon Road Bridge Replacement Project Site, Cedar City, Utah, July 13, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

“It was a very smooth bridge slide,” he said.

The bridge project was planned after an analysis by the UDOT to determine what was needed across Utah. Wood said the organization concluded the project was justified because old bridges were wearing out.

UDOT Transportation Commissioner Donna Law said the effort was funded three years ago and seeing the idea evolve, be prioritized, funded and now realized was rewarding.

“UDOT has teams of people across the state, who coordinate with communities to prioritize what’s important not only to the state as a whole…but also to help communities improve their transportation systems” , she said.

Wood said the construction of a new bridge ensures a “longer road life.” Additionally, the bridge was built to allow for future expansion should the need for additional lanes or another bridge arise, which he said saved taxpayers money.

Board members Teri Hartely and R. Scott Phillips, along with several students and faculty from Southern Utah University’s construction engineering and management program attended the event to observe the landslide. Phillips said the project was “very exciting and very beneficial to Cedar City.”

The bridge replacement project site
on East Nichols Canyon Road, Cedar City, Utah, July 13, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Freshman SUU student Justin Ndjondo said it was “incredible” to see the bridge moving and he was excited about the future of engineering.

“And I’m definitely motivated,” he said.

Additionally, UDOT plans to lower East Nichols Canyon Road, which runs under the bridge, Wood said, adding that nearby utilities have already been lowered. Most of the work was completed before the bridge slipped and the road is expected to open in mid-August.

The project will be fully completed by mid-September, the statement said.

To learn more about UDOT’s ongoing projects, visit their website here and watch the time-lapse video of UDOT on the bridge below:

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