Pennsylvania DOT – Hulton Bridge Replacement

The United States Golf Association selected the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., as the site for the 2016 U.S. Open, and the only direct-access route into town is Hulton Bridge, which will be under construction for the next year. “When this project was put out there, it was kept in mind that this new bridge has to be done before the U.S. Open comes,” Project Manager John Myler says. “It would be a big black eye for the Pennsylvania DOT if we started and didn’t get it done on time.”

The Hulton Bridge spans the Allegheny River and the Norfolk Southern Railroad to connect Harmar Township and Oakmont Borough located in Allegheny County, Pa. The project includes the replacement of Hulton Bridge that was built in 1910 and is truss-style with a 1,600-foot steel, multi-girder structure. Hulton Bridge was originally built to support two 10-foot lanes – which, Myler says, is very narrow when compared to the standard 12-foot lanes of today. 

A unique aspect of the Hulton Bridge replacement project is that the new bridge is being built adjacent to the existing bridge so traffic is not impacted, Myler says. During its planning stage, the Pennsylvania DOT not only cared about completing the new bridge on time for the U.S. Open, but it also took into consideration what the bridge closure would mean for the surrounding communities. 

“Keeping the existing bridge open was an important detail for the local community,” he explains. “Oakmont has a very strong local business group and a nice shopping district that is important to that area, so if we removed the existing bridge to build the new one we would have forced an 18-mile detour to get around. It would have been a significant issue for the local community.” 

Aesthetically Pleasing

The new Hulton Bridge will be located directly upstream of the existing bridge and will include four 11-foot lanes – two in each direction, a four-foot median, six-foot shoulders on each side of the roadway and a sidewalk on the downstream side of the bridge. The project also includes intersection improvements to Freeport and Hulton roads, signal and lighting upgrades, curb and sidewalk improvements, drainage, pavement markings and utility relocation. 

“The bulk of the work is focused on structural,” Myler notes. “The truss structure everyone liked and wanted to keep because of the historic look and value. People were concerned about getting a straight-forward concrete bridge that is mundane and not aesthetically pleasing. We put forth the effort to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible.” 

The piers and abutments on the new bridge are being made with foam liner and stained to resemble the stone comprising the piers and abutments of the existing bridge. The color of the bridge beams will be green and the light and sign poles and pedestrian railing will be painted black. Pedestrian outlooks will be constructed over each of the three river piers. “We want to give it a visual appeal so when you are driving across it you don’t know you are driving across a bridge,” Myler says. 

The Pennsylvania DOT used self-consolidating concrete to construct the river piers. The state is using a relatively new self-consolidating concrete mix and Myler has found it to beneficial because the mix flows easier. “Instead of measuring slump, you measure flow and the benefit is that it eliminates the potential for voids in the foundation,” he explains. “You can’t really see voids, so there is a lot of testing post-installation to find them, but because of the fluidity of the product, it gets in the rebar instead of getting caught in the rebar cages. We have started to embrace this product for the state.” 

Inches Away

The Pennsylvania DOT is overcoming a number of challenges while constructing the new Hulton Bridge adjacent to the old bridge that Myler says is just inches away. He explains space is limited at each end of the new bridge because a school and condominium building sit close to it on the Oakmont side and although the Harmar Township side offers a bit more room, it is still tight too because of a nearby sewage treatment plant.

To date, the Pennsylvania DOT is about halfway through construction of the new Hulton Bridge. All the steel is erected, and the utility and gas lines have been inspected, as well as the pedestrian walkway down the bridge and the electrical and fiber-optic lines. This spring, the DOT will begin construction on the deck and rebar with the intention of opening the bridge on Oct. 15, 2015. Once the new bridge is completed, the Pennsylvania DOT will demolish the existing bridge.

In spring 2016, the Pennsylvania DOT plans to put the finishing touches on the new bridge and permanently open it after the demolition. “We will demolish the existing bridge, get the new bridge open and finish up miscellaneous things like landscaping and it will look beautiful for the U.S. Open,” Myler says. 

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