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August 17, 2011


What’s ailing Antelope Valley bridges?

by Deena Winter

A state investigation into problems with the new Antelope Valley Project bridges found poor workmanship and inspection of the bridges and called into question whether they would last 75 years, as intended.

Regarding the fact that pieces of concrete have broken away and even fallen from the bottom of the bridges, the authors of an state report into the problems wrote, “This shouldn’t have made it to the walk-through inspection, let alone through it and the work accepted under normal contract/construction procedures.”

The bridges are brand new; they just opened in the past few years as part of the city’s largest public works project to date.

“In our opinion the structural integrity of the bridge is not impacted due to above mentioned findings, but the service life for the next 75 years is definitely impacted,” the report said.

While a team of inspectors determined the structural integrity of the bridges is not compromised by the problems, they said if the bridges aren’t repaired the life of the structures could be “significantly reduced.”

The bridges are part of a $246 million downtown project designed to control flooding, improve transportation near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and revitalize core neighborhoods.

The report made it clear that problems plague more than the four Antelope Valley bridges previously cited by this blog; they also extend to the three additional Antelope Valley bridges, on Vine, Military and Y streets.

The city and Joint Antelope Valley Authority (a board overseeing the project) were told to respond to the inspectors’ findings within 60 days.

The most serious problem is pieces of the bridges that have broken off the underside: A piece of concrete about 18 inches in diameter fell off the bottom of the O Street bridge in January, prompting the city to close Antelope Valley trails from N to Q street due to safety concerns and setting in motion an investigation of the bridges by the state.

The Federal Highway Administration contacted the state to determine the “level of risk and exposure to both agencies” as a result of Mayor Chris Beutler’s decision to go public about the bridge problem. The city, state and feds then got together and decided the state Department of Roads would lead an independent investigation into the cause of the concrete breakup.

Portions under the bridges where the concrete was breaking away were removed so the trails could be reopened in late January. However, the DOR investigation was only beginning.

Among the problems detailed in the final Department of Roads report:

• “Contamination” on the underside of the bridges inspected – including nails, wire and other debris hanging or embedded in the bottom of the bridges.

• Marks on the bottom of the bridges from the teeth of heavy equipment used to move the bridges – some of which were built on the ground and then moved over the channel. One bridge had “significant breaking away of the concrete along the bottom edge for 15 to 20 feet.”

• Numerous areas where the concrete separated along the bottom edges of the decks on nearly all the bridges from N to Q streets. Inspectors said the rebar and conduit was exposed at nearly all of those areas and the coupling for the conduit was visible.

• Other delaminated areas away from the edge of the deck – the coarse aggregate fractured. Small to large areas of poor consolidation of the concrete.

• In some areas, exposed rebar was painted right over.

• On the bridge piers, white material has “oozed out of cracks beginning at the top of the piers” for two to four feet in some cases.

• On top of the bridges, there were grout stains “all over the place left on the sidewalk.”

• At least one or more expansion joints already failed on both sides of one bridge, the report said, and there was an obvious dip in the road by the concrete rail on the O Street bridge.

• No electrical conduit drainage was installed even though it was supposed to be.

• Abnormal amounts of water were found inside the electrical conduits, indicating water infiltrated during construction or seeped into the broken seal around the light fixture.

“The city of Lincoln needs to review all upcoming projects to ensure that these problems with the conduit are not repeated again,” the report said.

• In all the areas where the underside of bridges was breaking away, it was underneath the electrical conduit and near conduit couplings.

In one part of the report, the authors were so adamant they used an exclamation mark to say, “Normal practice is not to let the popcorn holes go! (poor workmanship and poor inspection).”

The report says a combination of poorly vibrated/consolidated concrete and placing the electrical conduit very near the edge of the bridge deck without proper drainage – combined with backhoe impact and the method of construction – contributed to the breaking off of the concrete. The authors recommended the bridge be tested for the next couple years with infrared thermography and impact echo testing.

The authors recommended that:

• The surface be finished according to specifications.

• Additional sounding of the underside of bridges be done to determine if there are additional areas where concrete should be removed and repaired.

• Patch, repair and re-stain the bridge deck where the concrete was stained over exposed rebar and contaminated concrete.

• Re-install material in the roadway expansion joints at approach slabs.

• Determine the magnitude of water ponding on the P Street bridge deck by the concrete railing and the impact on traffic, particularly when it’s icy, and determine whether it can be corrected cost-effectively.

The bridges were designed and inspected by Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s largest transportation engineering companies, based out of New York. The company was hired to manage both design and construction – an construction arrangement that has been criticized because it is easier to cover up design flaws.

After a piece of the O Street bridge fell, the city hired PB to inspect the undersides of the bridges, according to the DOR report.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jeff Poley
    Aug 17 2011


    This all sounds like bridge design, construction and inspection were managed by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Some of the items listed in the DOR report indicate that gross incompetence ran wild on the projects and that in many instances recognized flaws were intentionally covered up. I have yet to see contract documents that specify that exposed structural steel in the concrete should be painted over or that debris should be be left sticking out of the concrete. What the hell were the inspectors that signed off on this work thinking?

    The Mayor owes us a detailed explanation of how this debacle happened. If he can’t do that, he should resign.


    • jim
      Aug 17 2011


  2. Carol
    Aug 17 2011

    there needs to be a lawsuit for shoddy workmanship and crappy materials!!! If any city workers were envolved in this inspection process they should be FIRED!! Then Kent Seacrest needs to give the taxpayers their money back along with other tax munchers out there!!! This absolutely should make EVERYONES skin crawl!!! WASTE our tax dollars when people cannot make ends meet!!!! Can you tell I am PO’d????

  3. Roger Yant
    Aug 17 2011

    I really think the problem is we did not spend enough money on the project! Good God, we have the gang that couldn’t shoot straight running the city. LOL

  4. pirgirl
    Aug 17 2011

    Thank goodness for the Dept of Roads inspectors. I am surprised we were able to read as much as we did in the J-S. Thank you Deena for a far more detailed report.

  5. Betty Lee
    Aug 17 2011


  6. Daniel
    Aug 18 2011

    The only thing that confuses me is why their isn’t a lawsuit filed yet. If this private contracter was hired by a private company to do this work they would be court already, but it seems like the city just wants to throw their hands up and say, “oh well”.

  7. Roberta
    Aug 18 2011

    This is only half the story what about the overpayments and the lavish expense items paid. The contractors, engineers and everyone involved should be banned from doing business with the City and State.

  8. ej
    Aug 18 2011

    What’s with the sue! sue! sue! You people probably are the same people who out of the other side of you mouth complain about too many lawsuits and lawyers. Sheesh!

    The DOR inspectors pointed out the problems. The contractors should have the opportunity to fix the problems. If they refuse to or do not properly remedy the situation or can’t adequately remedy it to where the bridges will last the promised 75-year lifespan, then, by all means sue!

  9. Betty Lee
    Aug 18 2011

    Once the inspectors ok the work, what responsibility does the contractor have? I can’t believe that anyone would give the ok on all these obvious problems! My question is, are these the same inspectors who are overseeing the arena? Maybe we should hold a vote to hire on a citizen to oversee and report back to the public about the going on’s with these multi million dollar projects! I’m sure there are plenty of retired engineers here in Lincoln that are concerned about tax payers money, willing to look out for Lincoln’s best interest and make some extra money! This citizen elect could report to our government watchdog group. It seems like every time you read the paper, read the blogs, listen to the radio, or the tv, there is something shady going on with our city government! Enough is enough and too much is plenty!

  10. John
    Aug 18 2011

    ej, you are such a tool. What do you do all day along? Me thinks you must work for the Mayor.
    The problems of shoddy construction have been pointed out before. Why haven’t those problems been address to date? What is taking so long? is it the old blame game?
    If the concrete, was not up to spec who supplied it? Are we still using this supplier, hopefully NOT!!! I cannot believe at a city inspector didn’t come down to take a look. Who signed off on this debacle? I, ej, I would not let you set a mouse trap in my house if you really think that this is quality workmanship!

    • ej
      Aug 19 2011

      John, what do you do all day? Obviously, you’re not practicing reading comprehension. Show me where I said anything about it being quality workmanship. All I said is that the first line of defense in getting the problems fixed isn’t a lawsuit. And John, there’s no way I would set a mouse trap in your house. I fear you’d hurt yourself licking off the peanut butter.


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