The Route 5-8-12 North-South Arterial Viaduct Replacement, a project long in the works, will bring added safety for automobiles and pedestrians as well as opening avenues into West Utica. This is a condensed project size-wise but it has a lot going on. In total, there are 5 bridge replacements crammed into 8/10 of a mile. The overall project involves the replacement of the viaduct (the elevated portion) of State Routes 5, 8, and 12 over Columbia and Lafayette Streets and Oriskany Boulevard (the intersection of State Routes 5A and 5S) in Utica, New York.
What prompted this major project is that New York State Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection Program inspections showed that the structure was nearing the end of its useful life. Additional studies were done to develop a concept plan and vision to improve the operation, safety, mobility, and aesthetics of the Arterial. The result was an expressway that included an interchange at the intersection with Court Street and a new alignment for the viaduct.
One of the major goals of this project was to maintain the structural integrity of the viaduct. To make sure that happened, planners considered several interchange and bridge configurations to replace the old viaduct in a way that was consistent with the vision identified in the study. The Utica North-South Arterial has a long history.
The Utica North-South Arterial was built by NYSDOT in the 1960s to deal with the major traffic through the City of Utica. Initially conceived as an elevated highway, concern from the community made the section between Court Street and Oswego Street a surface arterial with street crossings. The viaduct is inspected biannually and was last rehabilitated in 1991.
Brian Hoffman, Regional Design Engineer, said, “The process started in 2006 with public meetings, meetings with individuals, and with the city. General consensus was positive. Some wanted a boulevard type facility. Studies demonstrated how this project would increase safety for cars and people”
The viaduct part of this project is the four bridges from the bridge over Columbia Street to the end of the bridge over Routes 5A/5S (Oriskany Boulevard.). Today, the North-South Arterial is used by regional travelers, local businesses, residents and pedestrians. The traffic on the Arterial carries more than 70% of the area’s through-traffic. This traffic sometimes conflicts with area business traffic, local traffic, and pedestrian traffic. The NYSDOT recognized the importance of this route by everyone who uses and it continues to keep it a priority in meeting the objectives of this project.
The new interchange at Court Street gives access to the Court Street area where previously a left turn was not possible. Brian Hoffman said, “It’s a significant improvement to West Utica.”
The North-South Arterial Viaduct Replacement Project involves a number of tough deadlines made tougher by this winter’s frigid temperatures. Joseph J. Bree, Vice President of Sealand and Project Superintendent, said, “There were days I considered not working but the guys had a good attitude about it.”
“We have a very successful partnering with Sealand to meet a very aggressive schedule,” said Chris Langett, Area Supervisor for DOT Construction.
Going green was a big element in this project. Brian Hoffman said, “This is the first project in the area to use led lighting for both pedestrian and highway lighting. The high mast lights will be a significant savings to the City of Utica.” The high mast lights contain LED panels. Each panel has 192 LEDS. Each high mast has 12 panels. The lights are Dark Sky Compliant, another green initiative that minimizes spillage of light.
“We go as green as we can; asphalt recycling, concrete, metal, everything,” Bree said. Most of the demolition material was recycled and reused. Old concrete was used in roadway, as pipe backfill, and embankment backfill. All of the Fay Street Warehouse was used. All demolition material was tested for gradation just like material from a pit.
Chris Langett said, “This project maximized on site waste disposal. Small things have a significant impact on fuel and CO2. When you have to drive less to dump material there is a great savings.”
Besides a new viaduct that will last decades, one of the side-effects of the project is the partnering between New York State and Sealand. This relationship extends to local businesses, local unions, local workers, and the police department, fire department, and the City of Utica. Andy Roberts DOT EIC (engineer in charge) said, “People are seeing dividends. It’s more than just construction.” The North-South Arterial Viaduct Replacement Project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.