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Big bridge for Ohio River Levee Trail

Connecting the Ohio River Levee Trail and RiverWalk to create a 27-mile greenway in Louisville, Kentucky.

By Lance Williams, PE

Map of KentuckyLouisville Metro Government has initiated an ambitious "City of Parks" plan to build a 100-mile greenway around the city. In addition to connecting Louisville's diverse parks and neighborhoods, this path includes planned connections to Southern Indiana and surrounding Kentucky counties, offering significant new opportunities for recreation and alternative transportation.

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By the end of 2007, when the Ohio River Levee Trail and the RiverWalk are connected, the loop will be approximately 25% complete. This will allow a bicyclist or pedestrian to travel 27 miles from downtown to Riverside along paved multi-use paths.

In 2006, the city announced a 1.2-mile extension to connect two existing trails along the Ohio River and complete the Ohio River Levee Trail. As a critical part of the project, Louisville Metro Government needed a bridge to connect two trails over Mill Creek Pond, a tributary to the Ohio River. The bicycle and pedestrian bridge had to span 231 feet with no columns or piers to support it. Project team members knew a clear span was necessary to avoid collection of debris in the slow moving backwaters, potentially leading to long-term maintenance concerns.

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Consulting Engineer Strand Associates contacted CONTECH Bridge Solutions for a Continental® truss bridge that could meet the clear span requirements. Engineers used finite element analysis to reach the final bridge design. Because the weathering steel finish, requested for aesthetics, limited the size selection of structural members, extra stiffening was added to a custom truss and handrail system. In addition, mesh sides were incorporated to minimize interruption of the scenic view.

"The bridge fits and plays with the nature of the trail setting through its open-arch design and transparent railing," said Mohammad Nouri, Assistant Director for Louisville Metro Planning & Design. "At the same time, it is also very functional and bicycle and pedestrian friendly."

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The project called for unique installation methods. The trail extension where the bridge was to be installed was in a remote area near the river. Since most of the trail is located on top of the levee, there was limited access for construction vehicles and equipment. Without access for a crane, the typical tool for lifting and placing a prefabricated bridge into place, general contractor Arnold Dugan & Meyers opted to "launch" the bridge into place.

For the launch, two temporary piers were constructed on the stream banks. Two dozen or more steel rollers, surveyed and placed in parallel lines, were set in concrete pads. These steel rollers, 8 inches in diameter and 12 inches wide, were the foundation for the assembly of the bridge as well as the launching devices, which were located on the levee bank.

The bridge was then pulled back to the job site by a bulldozer. When each section of the bridge reached the "launch pad" it was lifted off the trailer with jacks and lowered onto the rollers.

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Each piece was bolted together on the levee to complete the bridge. The structure was then fitted with a nose cone that angled upward for the installation. After it was completely assembled, the bulldozer slowly pushed the bridge along the rollers until it was cantilevered over the ravine.

"It was educational to see the bridge being assembled at site and literally pushed to its resting spot in a manner of days," Nouri said.

The completed Capstone® style bridge is 231' long x 12' wide with a concrete deck. It received a "Project of the Year" award from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Public Works Association. Louisville now has a bridge that is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, providing a critical link in the city's greenway system.

For more information: Lance Williams, PE CONTECH Bridge Solutions Inc. 502-493-2930

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