Michigan using 'bridge slide' for overpass project

LOWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Department of Transportation is testing a new way to replace bridges without causing long traffic delays during construction. The trick? Build the new bridge next to the old one, then slide it into place.

The department said it will use the "bridge slide" technique for the first time on a project to widen the Michigan 50 bridge over Interstate 96 in Lowell Township, southeast of Grand Rapids.

Using the bridge slide process means the overpass will be out of service for less time than it would under a typical replacement, said department spokesman John Richard.

"You basically build that new bridge next to the existing one and then you demolish the old one," he said. "The new bridge is built on skids. Sometimes they just use Dawn dish soap to lubricate them, and then they slide the bridge into place. It really cuts down on the time the bridge is out of service.

"You'll definitely see a lot more bridge slides taking place just because of the less impact on traffic. It's really changing the industry. All the engineers at MDOT are very excited."

At least one other bridge slide project is planned in Michigan this year. It involves the northbound and southbound U.S. 131 bridges over Three Mile Road in Mecosta County, north of Howard City.

Kentucky transportation officials used the bridge slide technique in 2013 on an Ohio River bridge connecting Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind. In Nevada, it was used in 2012 on I-15 at Mesquite between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Iowa transit officials used the bridge slide system on the Massena Bridge on Highway 92 in Cass County, posting video (http://bit.ly/1grHOa3 ) of the new bridge rolling into place.

Published: Wed, Jan 8, 2014