More chunks of Lincoln’s new Antelope Valley bridges falling down

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – A chunk of concrete has broken away from the bottom of another bridge in Lincoln’s recently completed $246 million Antelope Valley Project.

LINCOLN BRIDGES: One of 18 bridges that were built for cars and pedestrians as part of Lincoln’s Antelope Valley Project.

Ed Patterson, some of whose property was taken by the city for the massive urban revitalization and flood control project in east downtown Lincoln, regularly walks the Antelope Valley trails and recently noticed a chunk of concrete missing from the bottom of the Q Street Bridge.

Kris Humphrey, who has managed the Antelope Valley Project for the city, said she was aware of the problem on the Q Street Bridge and after investigating, city officials determined the bridge to be safe.

Hawkins Construction Co. was the primary contractor on the Q Street bridge, she said. Hawkins also built the pedestrian bridge to Lincoln’s new Pinnacle Bank Arena on which two girders slipped last spring, delaying its completion and ringing up an extra $800,000 in repairs.

This isn’t the first time pieces of concrete have broken away and fallen from some of the 18 car and pedestrian bridges built as part of the massive Antelope Valley Project, for which the city declared 200 city blocks blighted and bought up dozens of homes and businesses to shore up two miles of Antelope Creek and build six miles of new roads and multiple water features along the creek.

Two years ago, the city had to close bike trails under the recently built bridges after an 18-inch-long piece of concrete fell from the O Street bridge, causing a safety hazard to walkers and bikers below.

CHUNKS: A chunk of concrete under the Q Street bridge has broken off, exposing rebar.

Subsequent inspections found problems plaguing seven Antelope Valley bridges — on O, P, Q, N, Y, Vine and Military streets — the most serious of which was spalling, or pieces of concrete cracking and falling away. The oldest of the bridges opened in mid-2007.

Eventually the bridge contractors and subcontractors agreed pay for $250,000 in repairs and not sue each other.

Now, a piece of the Q Street Bridge has fallen away and in the hole bare concrete and rebar is visible, with a crack along the rebar.

“You really don’t want to see that a year after the bridge opened,” Patterson said.

The state looked into the bridge problems in 2011 and didn’t find structural problems, but did find poor workmanship and inspection and questioned whether the bridges would last 75 years as intended. The authors of the report said the bridges “shouldn’t have made it to the walk-through inspection, let alone through it and the work accepted under normal contract/construction procedures.”

Back when the Antelope Valley bridge problems were first discovered, one of the issues was water that had leaked into electrical conduits for the pedestal lights, and Patterson said he has repeatedly reported seals popping up on the Vine Street bridge, leaving them open to water and snow.

A New York-based company, Parsons Brinckerhoff, was hired to manage both design and construction of the project, an arrangement that has been criticized because it’s easier to cover up design flaws.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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