After numerous flooding events, Reno replaced an integral bridge, without knowing it would be crucial for an upcoming year of rain
By Sabra Newby
Luckily for Reno, Nevada, there have been few more well-timed and fortuitous Capital Improvement Projects in our country’s history than the City of Reno’s Virginia Street Bridge Replacement Project.
When the City of Reno, its regional partners, and hundreds of citizens gathered downtown to celebrate the bridge’s grand reopening on April 12, 2016, no one could have imagined that the city was about to face its wettest year on record.
According to the National Weather Service, 13.73 inches of precipitation fell at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport during the 2017 calendar year, surpassing the prior record of 13.23 in 1983. And a significant amount of the year’s precipitation fell in early January 2017, as the Washoe County region faced widespread flooding.
One of the major threats to downtown Reno was a raging Truckee River and the possibility of the same sort of flood damage that decimated downtown in 1997 and 2005. The Truckee River in downtown Reno peaked at 12.3 feet at 12:45 a.m. on January 9, 2017, and the powerful flows exceeded more than 10,000 cubic feet per second at the river’s height.
Thankfully, downtown Reno was left relatively undamaged on the morning of January 9. Due to the impeccable timing and completion of the new Virginia Street Bridge, the downtown corridor had avoided the same disastrous and costly damage inflicted by the Truckee River during storms of years past. Damage from the 2005 flood, for instance, was estimated at $15 million.
“It’s important to thank everyone who participated in the project planning and the downtown businesses that endured the construction that was estimated to take 18 months, but was completed in just 10 months,” said Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. “Thanks to all the people who were a part of constructing this iconic bridge in the heart of The Biggest Little City in the World.”
For 110 years, from 1905 to 2015, the former Virginia Street Bridge ensured safe passage into the City of Reno. But after the severe floods of 1997 and 2005 revealed flood control and safety concerns, the City of Reno, in partnership with Truckee River Flood Management Authority, U.S. Army Civil Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Highway Administration, devised a plan to replace the bridge while preserving its distinguished history.
The project included demolition of the existing reinforced concrete, dual-arch bridge and construction of a new reinforced concrete, rigid frame, bowstring truss bridge that is 166 feet in length and varies in width from approximately 84 to 98 feet. Further work entailed an artistic river access plaza adjacent to the downtown Reno City Plaza to increase recreational use of the Truckee River.
According to the project’s general contractor, Q&D Construction, Inc., the primary project challenge was the construction schedule. As a major arterial connecting residents and visitors to businesses and other destinations within the city, the team understood the necessity to complete the project as soon as possible.
After consulting with an accomplished Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) expert, the team determined this bridge was a candidate for an innovative bridge “slide” method, which would allow the project to be completed ahead of schedule in spring 2016, rather than fall 2016.
Construction of the bridge began in June 2015 and was completed in April 2016. To celebrate its completion, the City of Reno and the contractor hosted a public celebration and parade that featured vintage vehicles representing the eras of the old bridge’s service.
Some of the team’s accomplishments included:
Completing the bridge 35 days early.
Delivering the project $989,933 under budget.
Saving approximately $1.25 million through partnerships.
Achieving a perfect safety record with zero OSHA recordable injuries.
Highlighting the project’s collaborative partnership, the team was recently honored with the International Partnering Institute’s 2017 Partnered Project of the Year Award. The Virginia Street Bridge Project also earned ENR Southwest’s 2016 Best Project in the Highway/Bridge category.
We’d like to again thank our project team members and partners on this monumental accomplishment, which was completed just in the nick of time and saved several million dollars in downtown recovery costs.
Sabra Newby became Reno’s City Manager on May 8, 2017 and has more than 15 years of experience in state and local government. She may be reached at www.reno.gov.