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Olsson Wins Grand Award from ACEC of Nebraska for U.S. Highway 281 Bridge Design

LINCOLN, NE — Olsson, an engineering and design firm, won the Grand Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Nebraska’s annual Engineering Excellence Awards, the top honor given by the organization.

Olsson won the top spot for its design work on the emergency repairs of the U.S. Highway 281 bridge that spans the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska. The Grand Award is given to the Nebraska project from any category that was rated highest overall for engineering excellence.

ACEC Nebraska’s Engineering Excellence Awards recognize Nebraska-based projects for outstanding work, talent, and expertise. Projects are rated on their uniqueness and originality, future value to the engineering profession, complexity, and the successful fulfillment of the client/owner’s needs.

“This project proved how much can be accomplished in a short period of time when the need is great,” said Olsson Engineer Ross Barron, Lead Bridge Designer for the project. “We care deeply about the communities we serve, so we dedicated the best we had to solve this challenge and minimize the disruption as best we could for those who live in the northeast part of the state.”

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts called Olsson’s work to restore the U.S. Highway 281 bridge a “feat of engineering” during the bridge reopening celebration, which took place on October 22, 2020, just 19 months after historic flooding rendered the bridge useless.

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Olsson was selected by the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to lead emergency response efforts to restore the U.S. Highway 281 bridge and about 1,000 feet of roadway destroyed by flooding following the breach of nearby Spencer Dam. Olsson’s multidisciplinary engineering and environmental efforts included civil and geotechnical engineering, geotechnical investigation and design, bridge inspection and design, roadway design, environmental planning and permitting, and hydrology and hydraulics.

Completing the project on such a constricted deadline required tight coordination from the start. Olsson completed preliminary engineering designs for the new permanent bridge, a temporary bridge, and the new bridge approach in only 27 days.

Olsson worked with Hawkins Construction, the project’s general contractor, and NDOT to finish the job in 19 months, opening up a vital transportation route that is essential to residents of Boyd and Holt counties. Motorists who relied on the bridge were forced to take detours of up to 127 miles before the temporary bridge was opened.

Olsson also won an Honor Award in the water/wastewater category for its wellfields emergency consultation for the City of Lincoln. Historic flooding in eastern Nebraska caused power outages in and around the Lincoln Water System wellfields and a temporary loss of water production capacity. The city reached out to Olsson to assess conditions and provide drone images and video of inaccessible areas and structural inspection of an island bridge. Olsson coordinated the repair of the wells and broken mains, managed construction on roads to the wellfields, and coordinated with the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for repair of breaches to the Platte River levee. As a result, mandatory water restrictions in Lincoln ended in less than a week.

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