As massive concrete piers rise from the Mississippi river in southeast Minnesota, people have begun to take notice of what will become the longest free-standing tied-arch bridge in North America. A unique project in several respects, the new Hasting bridge has recently been featured in articles on the websites of ENR and Roads & Bridges. The ENR article is a republication of an article that originally appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighting the construction process of the last year, with particular focus on the process of constructing the river piers. The Roads & Bridges article is a more technically in-depth piece written by the lead bridge engineer Vincent T. Gastoni, P.E., of Parsons Transportation Group. Both articles discuss some of the many geotechnical changes faced on this project. This excerpt from Roads & Bridges is a concise description of the pier foundations and some of the reasoning behind their selection:
The main river piers are concrete delta-style frames with the tied-arch superstructure fully framed into the pier through the knuckle connection. The stiffness of the foundation system was then integral to the overall force effects in the structure. The north pier is located in 190 ft of soft soils overlaying rock and supported on unfilled 42-in. driven steel pipe piles. Drilled shafts were investigated early but were not cost-effective, impacted the schedule and presented a risk to the existing bridge due to potential caving effects. Statnamic pile load testing was used to validate the vertical capacity and lateral performance of the 42-in. piles. The south pier footing is close to the rock surface; however, the rock was deeper, more sloped than expected, and the originally planned spread footing was changed to short drilled shafts during the final design. Dan Brown & Associates provided the team with geotechnical analysis and recommendations.
Our Tim Siegel pointed out that the statement “It’s a marvel of engineering that requires ingenious construction techniques, most of which are invisible to the drivers whizzing by overhead,” from the Star Tribune, is an accurate description of how our work as foundation designers and constructors is often viewed. Although much of the ingenuity and innovation that goes into the geotechnical aspects of projects often goes unnoticed by the general public, it is certainly refreshing to see articles like these. For us at DBA, it is even more refreshing to see our efforts credited by name as they were in the article by Vince when he wrote, “Dan Brown & Associates provided the team with geotechnical analysis and recommendations.”
For a design-build project with so many different geotechnical components (driven piles, drilled shafts, spread footings, retaining walls, a column-supported embankment, and light weight fill), it is hard to believe that our role as the lead geotechnical engineer is nearing completion just a little over a year after construction began. At this point, the only foundations that have yet to be constructed are some of the rock bearing spread footings at the south approach. DBA will also monitor instrumentation installed in the column-supported embankment for the next two years.