A New Bridge in Three Days? You Just Watch.

The new bridge in Denver, ready to be put into place.  Photo: Colorado Department of Transportation

Have you ever wondered what your Lego-loving kid might do for a job someday? I recently heard about a project here in Denver that seemed like it would have been designed and constructed by a bunch of people who grew up building with those brightly colored bricks.

We have a lot of highways in Denver. They are very busy highways. So when one of the bridges on I-70 needed to be replaced, the highway people came up with a clever solution. Instead of having construction for months and months that would slow down traffic even more, they decided to do it in a weekend. Seems impossible, right? Not so.

For the past few months they’ve been building the new bridge in an open lot right next to the site. No traffic diversions needed. This weekend they will be tearing up the old bridge and sliding the new bridge in to place. And traffic only needs to be diverted for three days, not six months.

The new bridge is a 2400 ton post-tensioned concrete box. It was jacked up and set on SPMTs (Self-Propelled Modular Transporters), ready to be transported down I-70 a distance of 800 feet and set in its final position.

I’ve raised three boys who loved watching construction sites. When they were little, we would pull our van up next to a lot where the old shopping center was being torn down and new grocery store was being built. Many days we would sit there all morning. If you (or your GeekKids) are interested in watching the bridge project, you’re in luck.

There is a live streaming video of the action online. If you live near Denver there is even a viewing area set up for interested local folks. After it’s all over there will be a time lapse video of the whole project. This is a great way to teach kids about the world around them, and how sometimes complicated problems can be fixed with simple solutions. Here is the schedule for the bridge replacement:

  • Friday, July 19th
    11 pm to 8 am Saturday: Demolish and remove the existing Pecos Bridge (translation: maybe blow it up?)
  • Saturday, July 20th
    12 pm to 3 pm: Move the bridge out into I-70 and rotate it 180 degrees
    3 pm to 7 pm: Prepare the travel path down I-70
    7 pm to 3 am: Move the bridge down I-70 and set it down on newly constructed abutments
  • Sunday, July 21st
    3 am to 5:30 am Sunday: Clean up and prepare for reopening I-70 for rush hour traffic

I’ve driven by the site of this project for months and wondered what was going on. Now I know that someone was thinking outside the box when it came to traffic congestion. Maybe that someone spent too many days sitting in bumper to bumper traffic themselves. It’s going to be a fun project to watch. Much like building with Lego bricks, this weekend we will see a project taken apart and a new project moved to the site. Be sure to have your Lego builders tune in.