Design of Pensacola Bay Bridge Reaches Halfway Mark

Design of a three-mile bridge across Pensacola Bay in Florida is more than halfway complete.

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WSP USA is designing new westbound and eastbound bridges on Route 30 (U.S. 98) as part of a design-build team led by Skanska USA. The $399 million project is being undertaken on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation.

“The new bridge will replace the functionally obsolete and structurally deficient bridge that currently connects Pensacola to Gulf Breeze,” said John Poulson, design director for WSP.

“The bridge will be constructed in very challenging geotechnical and marine site conditions, across an open, exposed bay,” said Charles Rudie, project manager. “It’s an unusually long bridge, and with challenging ship impact and hydraulic design requirements.”

Design work began in August, and construction of the bridge is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 with completion scheduled for the summer of 2020. The existing three-mile bridge will be removed after the new one is built.

©2016 WSP USA

The bridge features a wishbone tied-arch main span, designed to maximize the visual impact from all perspectives.

Landmark Aesthetic Features

The new bridge will be an iconic structure that increases capacity and improves driver safety. Its design includes dual shared-use paths on the outside lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, reconstruction of the highway approaches to the bridge, and improvements to public facilities in the Gulf Breeze Wayside Park.

“The design provides the bridge with several landmark aesthetic features, including a wishbone tied-arch main span and multi-color aesthetic lighting that will create a ribbon of light across the bay,” Rudie said.

The arches are designed to maximize the visual impact from all perspectives and provide a durable, easily maintained structure. The architectural details of the tower- supported shade structures and piers mimic the arch’s wishbone, providing scenic views from both the low- and high-level segments of the bridge. Lighting, railings and surface are detailed to accentuate the architecture.

While it is not unusual for new bridges to include pedestrian paths, the use of paths on both sides of the bridge is uncommon. “Strong community involvement led to providing the bridge with two pedestrian paths instead of one,” Rudie said.

The paths will feature educational plaques and other features selected by the community to highlight the local area and history. “The pedestrian path overlooks will encourage walkers and cyclists to explore the bridge and enjoy the journey from shore-to-shore,” Rudie said.

©2016 WSP USA

WSP USA designed tower-supported shade structures to provide rest/shade areas for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Innovative Design

“We believe the design and construction techniques for the low-level piers, which will be precast as a single unit, will be a first,” Rudie said. “The separated and lowered shared-use paths are also unique, and we are developing a unique ultra-high performance concrete pi-girder for the pedestrian path.”

In order to meet the owner’s aggressive design and construction schedule, the design-build team will be need to maintain a construction average of 1,300 square feet of new bridge per contract day. Rudie said the team is ready for the challenge. “The design and construction teams developed specific design and construction approaches to meet that schedule,” he said.

The project team will also seek Envision platinum certification from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

“I think WSP's design crew all feel fortunate to be part of the team that has pursued, won and delivered many unique and complex structures across the state,” Poulson said. “It’s exciting to see the momentum continue with this major project, especially for the senior staff who are enjoying watching the next generation doing much of the heavy lifting to make the project a success.”

©2016 WSP USA

The dual shared-use paths on the outside of the bridge provide scenic views for pedestrians and cyclists as they travel from shore to shore.

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