Snowy Range Road could soon reopen between Cedar and Garfield streets as the Harney Street Viaduct project continues on schedule, Wyoming Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Steve Cook said.
“(This) week, traffic should be rerouted onto Snowy Range Road,” Cook said. “The (Snowy Range Road) Bridge is complete and the contractors are putting the finishing touches on the road.”
As part of a multi-million-dollar project to replace the Clark Street Viaduct with the Harney Street Viaduct, the construction widened a portion of Snowy Range Road to four lanes, which will provide a consistent route from West Laramie to the four-lane viaduct once it is complete in 2018.
Building a four-lane bridge over the railroad tracks was first discussed around 1996 by a committee tasked with addressing problems with the aging Clark Street Viaduct, Cook said.
The Laramie City Council entered into a cooperative agreement in 2013 with WYDOT for construction of the viaduct. S&S Builders, of Cheyenne, started working on the viaduct project in January after being awarded a $23.5 million contract by WYDOT.
On the east side of the tracks, construction on the Harney Street Viaduct extended under Third Street, which briefly closed earlier this summer.
“The utility work (under Third Street) is basically done, and they’ve started building the street up,” Cook said. “They should be done with the street work this year. Our paving end date is typically Oct 15, and it should be done by then.”
The majority of work on the new viaduct is slated for 2018, but Cook said crews have built retaining walls and would soon start setting steel for the structure.
“You’ll start seeing more of that structure work starting,” he said. “They hope to start placing steel by the end of this month.”
With the Clark Street Viaduct constructed in 1963, WYDOT State Bridge Engineer Mike Menghini said the new viaduct could include some improved structural materials.
“(The Harney Street Viaduct) incorporated the use of a higher strength steel,” Menghini said. “Portions of the new girders are using a new high-performance steel. We don’t use it on all bridges, because it’s very expensive.”
The high-performance steel could help the viaduct handle traffic loads predicted by WYDOT design software.
“The program will run loads over the bridge to determine maximum load the bridge will be subjected to,” he said. “We design it around that.”
The software — used to both design the viaduct and print construction plans — saved the design team several weeks or even months compared to the time that would have been required to design the Clark Street Viaduct in the ‘60s, Menghini said.
“Years ago, we had to do (construction plans) by hand,” he said. “The whole process from start to finish is much faster now.”
Weathering steel — metal naturally cured by the elements — is another upgrade planned for the new viaduct.
“The steel will not be painted,” Menghini said. “It will just have what they call a rust patina. It’s a huge maintenance savings over time.”
On the ground, Cook said outside of advances in construction equipment, the erection of the bridge did not vary much from the processes used more than 50 years ago.
“It’s all still concrete and steel,” he said. “Not much to it, really.”
As construction continues, Cook said more heavy equipment could dot the Laramie skyline.
“You’ll see some big cranes out there setting the steel,” he said. “Overall big picture — they should get the intersection at Harney and Third (streets) done this year.”