Rapid Bridge Replacement Rises as Solution to Avoid Extended Highway Closure in Oregon City Jughandle Project

February 13, 2012

Oregon’s Highway 213 is a multilane high-speed expressway that is also one of the state’s most congested corridors. As Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) worked with multiple stakeholders to reduce congestion and improve the highway’s safety, one particular conundrum presented itself: How to build a new Highway 213 bridge immediately adjacent to its existing bridge over a railroad line without closing the expressway for 10-12 months?

With 60,000 to 65,000 vehicles using the highway each day, staged construction – and the accompanying prolonged closure - was determined not to be a feasible option. The adjacent railroad bridge and interchange with Interstate 205 precluded the option of building a detour bridge to maintain continuous traffic. Alternative routes through Oregon City, a suburb of Portland, aren’t capable of handling that volume, and stakeholders wanted to minimize motorists’ frustration with the project.

KAI, part of the project’s multidisciplinary engineering consultant team, was charged with developing traffic control plans for the endeavor. Hermanus Steyn, an associate engineer in KAI’s Portland office, says that during the design process, the consultant team, which also included OBEC Consulting Engineers, explored different methodologies to use during construction. The logical solution was rapid bridge replacement.

The process required the contractor to build the new bridge next to the highway on temporary support systems so that it didn’t interfere with traffic. Then, the highway will close for four days while the contractor works around the clock to move the 130-foot-long replacement bridge into place.

The closure is scheduled for March 22-27, 2012, and stakeholders have launched an extensive public outreach campaign to ensure the effort goes smoothly and to discourage traffic within the city during the closure. “This is a big moment within the project,” Hermanus says.

In addition to developing traffic control plans, KAI led the conceptual phase for off-site improvements associated with a large commercial development in the area. The improvements produced a “jughandle” interchange configuration that eliminates all left-turn movements at the at-grade intersection with Washington Street and Clackamas River Drive and improves connections to and from Highway 213 near its interchange with Interstate 205.

When completed in 2013, the $22-million Jughandle Project will result in the grade separation of Washington Street and Clackamas River Drive from Highway 213. These facilities will be connected by a new local road (Washington Street) that crosses under the highway at the new bridge and serves pedestrians, cyclists, transit, vehicles and freight goods movement.

KAI developed more than 10 interchange concepts and guided stakeholders – including the Oregon Department of Transportation, Clackamas County, the City of Oregon City, and private property owners – through a process that established the preferred alternative.

Follow along with construction by viewing the Highway 213 Jughandle Live Project Cam posted on OBEC's website.

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