City of Lincoln
2008 Media Releases
Mayor Chris Beutler today officially opened the new Harris Overpass to traffic. The bridge has been closed since November 12, 2007 for reconstruction. Two lanes of vehicle traffic in each direction are now open, about one month ahead of schedule.
“This past year has not been easy for businesses and residents, but it was a project that had to be done,” Mayor Beutler said. “I appreciate everyone’s patience, and I am delighted that this beautiful new bridge is opening ahead of schedule. The Harris Overpass is an important link in our City, and we now have a safe bridge that will serve our needs far into the future.”
Pedestrian and bicycle access also is open today. The project is expected to be substantially finished in mid-November, except for landscaping and railyard work. Some lane closures may be necessary over the next month.
The new bridge is 1,883 feet long, 16 feet longer than the original. The new structure features decorative lighting and a flat bottom to prevent pigeons from perching. Greg MacLean, Director of the City Public Works and Utilities Department said the new overpass has 14 concrete piers compared to the original’s 28, which will aid in the development of the area under the bridge.
“Two new safety features are the infrared camera and the permanent message signs,” MacLean said. “The camera can detect ice forming on the bridge, and the signs on both ends will keep motorists advised of the road conditions.”
The original viaduct was completed in 1955 and is named in honor of John F. Harris, who donated the land for Pioneers Park. Deteriorating steel girders and concrete created the need to replace the overpass, which carries “O” Street traffic over the rail yards from 3rd to 9th streets. Its last inspection in 2005 resulted in a rating of “structurally deficient,” qualifying the bridge for Federal Highway Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement Program.
The total cost of the project was $23.5 million. About $10 million came from the Railroad Transportation Safety District, and another $13.3 million came from federal funds, which are administered locally by the Nebraska Department of Roads.
After an extensive public opinion process, the City opted in 2005 for a one-year total closure of the bridge rather than a two-year project that would have allowed limited traffic. The total closure saved the City about $5 million in construction costs. MacLean said change orders amounted to less than one percent of the project cost, well below industry standards.
The main contractor on the project is Cramer & Associates of Des Moines, which will receive some incentives for the early opening. The Schemmer Associates of Lincoln conducted the public outreach efforts, environmental studies, preliminary and final structural design, roadway design, bridge lighting and surveying. Sinclair Hille assisted in the structure finish, color and lighting.
Additional information on the Harris Overpass project is available on the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: harris).