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Most difficult bridge project: Croydon bridge reopens after long construction

Jan 18, 2024 10:26AM ● By Olivia Rees

Built in 1930 with a life expectancy of 70 to 80 years, the Croydon Bridge was in critical shape needing to be replaced as it was deteriorating having seen just shy of 100 years of existence. Heavily trafficked as the main road for the Holcim Devil's Slide Cement Plant and residents in Croydon, this bridge sees about 100 cement trucks a day and upwards of 220 trucks a day during the summer according to Public Works Director Bret Heiner. Aware of the conditions, plans to reconstruct the bridge have been in the works for the past seven years, in design for five years, and then finally started construction in 2022. With a variety of unseen challenges between preexisting infrastructure and Mother Nature, the Croydon Bridge is now, as of Jan. 8, 3:15 p.m., ready for the rumble of tires to once again be going across. 

The new bridge is very similar to the old bridge that was constructed of concrete pylons and rebar. The new bridge is built with concrete and rebar but there are steel pylons filled with concrete and rebar that will enable a lengthy 80 to 100 year life span. A slight difference in the actual construction is the shafts go deeper into the ground. Further, the bridge was raised on the East end by four feet to allow for more water flow but the west side remains unchanged in height. The combination of materials used and the depth of the shafts is the reason these types of bridges, particularly the Croydon Bridge, can handle the wear and tear of the daily traffic along with the amount of water flow presented by the Weber River. 

The challenges of this bridge project superseded many of what Heiner has seen in his day with a million dollars spent solely during the design process. Funded through federal grants and managed by both state and county, the Wadsworth Brothers contracted for the project for what Heiner commented was probably one of the most complicated designs in the state with a guarantee the workers will never forget it because of the level of the difficulty. The bridge is required to be lower because of the nearness of the railroads, not to mention the difficulty of building “a bridge in a live river that never gives you a break,” said Heiner. Having to divert the river over during construction, there was also the difficulty of train traffic. There are two sets of tracks on the South side which are the main tracks going through America, and also tracks on the North side that lead to the cement plant allowing the plant to ship cement out. For safety, it was mandated for construction to halt and workers to get out of equipment when trains passed by so the equipment would not tip onto the tracks and impede its journey. With 12 to 24 trains a day, it could end up taking half the day in production. 

The railroad traffic was only part of the complications that came with being located right next to the railroad. Restraints were put in place because where the shafts are usually pounded into the ground, as done with the new Morgan bridge, the railroad would not allow that because of the proximity of the shafts. The alternative was drilling which was what really slowed the project down. With all its complications, Heiner’s favorite part was the last 60 days watching it come together. The hardest was the drilling. Thinking it would never end at the moment, what would have taken two to three weeks pounding in the shafts, it took almost three months drilling it in. Along the way of drilling, the crew ran into unplanned soil conditions that would “heave and push out the shafts” resulting in the need to over-drill, put in rocks so it would hold, and repeat the process 29 times.  

Morgan County Public Works Director for the past six years, Heiner used to work for UDOT bringing to the table a plethora of skills, experiences, and talent. This background has proved invaluable and still led Heiner to dub the project the “worst time in 40 years to build the toughest bridge in the state.” No choice to build it when water level is as low as you can get it, winter is the only time for construction. When starting in 2022 and closing it down Nov. 15, 2022, there was no way of predicting the unprecedented moisture that Utah would garner in the upcoming season. The bridge should have been overtopping but a bullet was dodged with the warming up then cooling down pattern that kept flooding from occurring. With the most recorded snowpack since 1983, reservoirs had to let water out water sooner around March 15 which kicked construction out of the river much earlier than planned and delayed the April 1 expected completion. Hence, it was temporarily open July 1 to Nov. 6 before finally closing down and finishing this year!

“The Croydon Bridge opening last week has been a great blessing to many,” enthused local Croydon resident Allison Erickson. “We have patiently awaited this day since Nov. 2023! I noticed today that work is beginning on the second day half which is encouraging that the entire project will be done soon! We appreciate all the workers who have been so patient in ensuring it's done correctly. Despite setbacks last year we have learned as a community to be patient and realize that there are much bigger problems than having to take a detour that adds 10 min onto your commute!” 

The Croydon bridge should be completely finished within the next three weeks. λ

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