According to WYDOT Resident Engineer Kory Cramer, the bridge plays an important role in an area of increasing growth. “Curtis Street is one of only three routes connecting the Laramie community across I-80, making it a vital route for local commuter traffic. There is also heavy commercial truck traffic around the bridge, generated by three major truck stops, several hotels, and other businesses.
“The Curtis Street bridge has an Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) volume of 9,400 vehicles, with a projected AADT of 16,750 by 2039. Truck traffic makes up approximately 30 percent of the AADT. During winter closures of I-80, commercial truck traffic is very heavily concentrated at this interchange.”
In a reconstruction that has been planned for more than a decade, the aging original bridge has been replaced with a modern structure. WYDOT built the original Curtis Street Bridge in 1963 to provide an interchange for I-80 (then in planning and construction through Laramie), and to improve overall connectivity between east and west Laramie.
As WYDOT District Construction Engineer Ryan Shields explains, “The original structure was a two-span cast-in-place concrete box girder bridge. From a functionality standpoint, the original two-lane structure configuration struggled to handle increasing traffic volumes, specifically the high number of left-turning trucks that often stacked across the bridge and created delays.
“In terms of condition, the bridge required constant attention from WYDOT maintenance crews who routinely made repairs, mostly filling potholes and repairing deficiencies in the bridge deck. Contract rehabilitation work was done on the bridge in 1986 and 1997. Due to the structure type, rehabilitation work required careful staging and was costly. Our engineers determined that replacement of the bridge provided the best value as opposed to further rehabilitation.”
The new bridge is wider, with a center turn lane and free right turn lanes added to help with the traffic flow, by facilitating the large number of left turn movements at the interchange. Separating these movements will keep traffic moving with minimal delay.
Construction began April 3, initially focusing on the bridge replacement detour route, with crews completing paving work on Pierce Street – a major component of the detour.
WYDOT Project Engineer Sam Finkle relates, “Reinforcing steel for the concrete substructures was tied and constructed on site prior to the structure demolition, which occurred on May 16 and 17 . Work immediately began on the new bridge foundations (footings on steel H-piles and drilled shafts). Bridge substructure work (concrete bents and integral cap abutments) were constructed throughout the month of June. The girder erection was finished on July 8. The concrete paving on the interchange ramps and Curtis Street was constructed throughout June and July, concurrent with the bridge work. The bridge deck was poured on August 4 . The bridge was opened to traffic on August 22. Miscellaneous work – such as the decorative MSE walls and pedestrian railing, lighting, etc. – followed so that it did not delay opening of the bridge.
“Due to the constrained schedule, several innovative measures were taken such as using concrete maturity meters to expedite form removal and subsequent loading.”
The new three-lane bridge also features a multi-use path for foot and bicycle traffic – this path will open at a later date, after crews complete work tying the pathway to the Laramie River Greenbelt Trail. Additionally, in a partnership between WYDOT and the city of Laramie, the bridge includes aesthetic elements and enhancements – context-sensitive amenities such as decorative lighting, pedestrian fencing, and block retaining walls beneath the bridge.
Funding for the project came from the Federal Surface Transportation Program, with a state match.
“Our demolition subcontractor, Cherry Creek Recycling, removed the majority of the bridge on May 16 and 17 by working 24 hours straight. They utilized multiple excavators with breaker attachments and some with thumb attachments, which made quick work of the bridge. Traffic was put up the on and off ramps for a 48-hour window and the bridge was completely removed and hauled off by the time the interstate was opened back up.”
During the construction phase, I-80 traffic remained open, but with single lane shifts, lowered speed limits, flaggers, and other traffic control devices. Detours were put in place to allow access to all businesses impacted by the construction, and temporary traffic signals were installed at several intersections along the detour route. On and off-ramps were closed intermittently.
Regarding construction challenges, Reiman says, “This summer we experienced a record amount of rain in Wyoming. However, the weather never seemed to make a large enough impact to affect the schedule. This was due to crews working longer hours and weekends to make up for the time lost due to the rain.
“One challenge was that the footings elevations were under the water table and the bridge site sits in the middle of a wetland. That being said, the crews worked long hours to keep the footings pumped and to not let the ground water slow us down.”
The Curtis Street Bridge Project’s changing needs for traffic management measures such as detours, lane shifts, speed limit changes, and temporary traffic signals made regular communication with the driving public a critical component of the construction process. WYDOT Senior Public Relations Specialist Andrea Staley says the Department worked closely with the project engineers to provide a clear timeline of events.
“From the outset, State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) meetings were held yearly, with the project highlighted in its designated year. An open house for the project took place in 2017.
“The first press release for the project went out on April 25, 2023, and WYDOT hosted a meeting for the local businesses impacted by the bridge reconstruction on May 11. A press release on the bridge demolition went out on May 12 and included an illustration of the detour. A release about traffic shifts went out on July 7, so our crews could hang the girders.
“Social media was utilized for rebuild updates,” she adds. “A radio spot was used throughout the rebuild. Also, engineers and PIS did many news interviews about the progress of the bridge. Members of the Laramie City Council offered their support and assisted with getting the word out to their constituents.”
WYDOT District Engineer Ralph Tarango says, “I want to express my sincere gratitude for the invaluable collaboration among WYDOT, Reiman Corporation, the city of Laramie, the local businesses, the residents, and the traveling public. We had great communication throughout the project which was key to a successful project. I commend the contractor along with their subcontractors for being diligent in order to minimize the inconvenience to all those that were affected.”
Shields states, “We were fortunate to be able to work with Reiman Corporation, a local Wyoming contractor, and they really knocked it out of the park. They did an outstanding job and were able to finish early and have the bridge open to the public in just 76 working days. This is hands down the fastest, most efficient bridge project I’ve been a part of.
“One thing that WYDOT has prioritized recently has been a focus on collaboration and partnering, and that played a huge role in the success of this project. All the project partners worked together toward a common goal, and we’re very proud of the result. Big thanks to all of our staff at WYDOT, Reiman Corporation, and their subs, and our partners within the Laramie community.”
- Wyoming Department of Transportation
- Reiman Corporation
- City of Laramie
- Villalobos Concrete
- Cherry Creek Recycling, LLC.
- Traffic Safety Services
- Modern Electric
- Knife River, JSG Solutions
- Miller Wall Co.
Photos courtesy of the Wyoming Department of Transportation