Seventy-two pieces of pre-cast concrete will be delivered in the next two weeks to the construction site at I-15 Exit 118. Beginning April 24, cranes will carefully lock in each piece across the interstate during the night when traffic is at its lowest. At the end of the month the cross bridge for the new interchange will be in place and the project will enter its final stages.
Jed Wheeler, project manager for Meadow Valley Contractors, the design-build contractor, said each piece of the bridge is being constructed of concrete in Las Vegas and will be individually trucked to the I-15 rest stop at the top of Mormon Mesa in the next week. “As we’re ready for each piece, a truck will move it from the rest stop to the construction site. It’s quite an interesting process that isn’t very common,” Wheeler said.
Construction crews built a 72-inch steel culvert under I-15 that conveyed about 135,000 cubic yards of dirt from the north side of the interstate to the south side. “That’s what we were doing when drivers saw the great big conveyor belt machine on the south side of the highway making the huge mounds of dirt,” Wheeler said. All of the dirt is being used to construct the northbound on and off ramps for the interchange.
“We built the culvert to move the dirt instead of trucking it up and down the interstate. That made Nevada Department of Transportation and Mesquite happy because we weren’t tearing up existing road surfaces with all the trucks,” Wheeler said. “Once we finished moving all the dirt, we converted the culvert to a storm drain for rain water run-off. It was quite an innovative process.”
While the southbound ramps have been paved and are ready to drive on, paving on the northbound ramps is scheduled to begin April 18. Once that’s done, the ramps will be used to move interstate traffic through the construction zone while the main lines are closed for bridge installation.
Concrete footings sit ready on the main road in which the bridges pieces will be placed. A crane will be placed on each side of the highway. One crane will lift a piece and match it together with a piece from a second crane. The two pieces will be spliced together. Each side will have 36 pieces total.
The bridge will have the feel of an archway tunnel with metal falcons, rabbits and lizards adorning it. “The rabbits will be about 13 feet tall,” Wheeler said. “There’s a lot of aesthetics to it.”
Once the bridge is in place, the construction crews will build the side walls, fill dirt in around that and then pave the top of the bridge from the south side all the way to the intersection of Flat Top Mesa Drive and West Pioneer Boulevard.
“On the south archway will be a replica of the mountains south of Bunkerville. On the north archway will be a replica of the Flat Top Mesa. Where they meet in the middle will be a replica of the Virgin River,” Wheeler said.
“We moved a total of 360,000 cubic yards of dirt during this project. That’s a lot of dirt,” he said.
The $14 million project is funded by the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission using fuel tax indexing money.