The new Inner Belt Bridge in Cleveland will open a year earlier than expected and cost $163 million less than estimated.
That's the commitment by Walsh Construction of Chicago, which along with design firm HNTB of Kansas City are the apparent winners of the contract to build the span across the Cuyahoga Valley.
Walsh, which received the most public support for its open, lacy steel design, received the highest scores on its proposal and submitted a bid of $287.4 million to build the five-lane span just north of the current Inner Belt Bridge. Construction will begin next year, and the bridge is now scheduled to open in fall 2013.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials announced the team on Sept. 9 after opening the bids and using a formula to combine them with the score given to each team's technical proposal. The scores were determined after ODOT and Cleveland officials spent five weeks reviewing the technical proposals, which included the design for the steel-girder bridge. The winning design features lacy, open steel connecting the piers to the truss.
The announcement comes nearly two years after ODOT, in an emergency measure, closed two of the four lanes in each direction on the Inner Belt Bridge to reduce weight on the 51-year-old span. Inspections and tests determined it was deteriorating faster than expected. ODOT had planned to renovate the bridge, but decided it had to be replaced. In March 2009, it received $200 million in federal funds, including $85 million in stimulus money, for the project. It is the state's largest infrastructure project ever.
The agency spent about $10 million in the summer and fall of 2009 to reinforce the steel in the bridge and to remove a 300,000-lb, 1,500-ft-long acceleration lane, added to lengthen the West 14th Street entrance ramp. That lane, built in 1986 as a cantilevered shelf over the south half of the bridge, placed so much stress on the bridge that it could no longer support a full load. All lanes were reopened last November, and ODOT has said the bridge will be safe until it is demolished.
Renderings of the bridge were released in August, but ODOT did not say which team submitted which design. While ODOT has up to 10 days to review the best proposal before awarding the contract, it has said the team announced on Sept. 9 is the apparent winner.
The contract requires about 65% of the design to be completed once ground is broken and the remainder as the bridge is being built. The winning team is required to meet with city and community groups to present proposals for aesthetic details of the bridge, including color and lighting and whether surfaces will be textured or have other treatments.
When the new I-90 span opens in three years it will carry eastbound and westbound traffic until the current deteriorating Inner Belt Bridge is replaced. At that point, the bridge built first will carry only westbound traffic and the other, eastbound traffic.