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In The Spotlight

“In the Spotlight” showcases TranSystems’ news, staff, projects, awards, successes and other topics of special note to those in the industry as well as our clients.
Celebration Pointe: A One-of-a-Kind Bridge for a One-of-a-Kind Community
by Andy Nicol and Eric Wooley, TranSystems
 
Celebration Pointe is the first transit-oriented development in Alachua County, Florida, where you’ll find Gainesville and the University of Florida. 
 
Celebration Pointe covers more than 125 acres northwest of the I-75 and Archer Road interchange – and will eventually offer more than one million square feet of dining, entertainment, shopping, office and residential space.
 
It is very much an experiment, designed to feel like a historic, walkable downtown while providing all the amenities and conveniences of modern culture. 
 
Will a self-contained “live, work and play” development like Celebration Pointe attract residents – and businesses? One of the keys to its success will be the new multi-modal bridge spanning Interstate 75.
 
A Multi-Modal Bridge
TranSystems was selected to design and oversee construction of the new bridge. From the start, it was clear this was going to be something special.
 
It was going to be a true multi-modal bridge, providing four lanes for vehicle traffic, a 12-foot wide center lane for bus transit and autonomous vehicles – along with dedicated lanes for bicycles and pedestrians.
 
This would be the first bridge built over I-75 in forty years – and a pilot for a new approach to urban transportation.
 
Expanded Transportation Options
The goals for the new bridge went beyond solving traffic congestion problems. Of course, the developer and the county wanted travelers to be able to get into and out of Celebration Pointe without having to navigate the congested Archer Road & 34th Street intersection.
 
But, more than that, they wanted to anticipate future transportation needs and make life easier and fun for residents.
 
So the design included a dedicated bus lane – for a planned bus route in response to office and residential development – which could also be used by autonomous vehicles. It also included dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes, connecting Archer-Braid Trail to the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail and providing a convenient and expansive opportunity for an active lifestyle.
 
Unique Design & Project Challenges
Given the developer’s goals – and county and state requirements – the bridge for Celebration Pointe involved a number of unique design and project challenges.
 
Vertical Geometry. Because of the length of the span and the amount of storm water to manage, the bridge couldn’t be designed with a classic symmetrical curve. Instead, the bridge was designed to have a double vertical curve, with the second curve coming into play on the east side where the bridge spans Southwest 40th Boulevard.
 
Storm Water Collection. The 12-foot center lane – with two traffic separators to create an envelope for bus transit or autonomous vehicles – meant the bridge would be catching extra storm water. The traffic separators themselves had to be open every four or five feet to allow water to escape into a collection system on both sides of the bridge.
 
Further, state requirements meant having a plan for collecting, treating and holding storm water for a certain amount of time before releasing it back into the environment. On the west side of the bridge, a shared-use pond served the project’s needs. On the east side, however, the developer had to buy additional property and install a pond – which then became a joint-use facility for the county and FDOT.
 
Sinkholes & Fissures. Florida of course is known for sinkholes, and this particular area around Gainesville is the epicenter of sinkhole activity. In addition, small fissures the size of basketballs can pop up out of nowhere – especially when the construction crew is pounding piles.
 
At one point, while setting piers, a short section of I-75 began to sag. Fissures had opened up beneath the highway. So the road needed to be opened up, the fissures filled, and then the road repaired and repaved.
 
Traffic Control. Interstate traffic would need to be rerouted during superstructure construction. TranSystems conducted a traffic survey and worked closely with the City of Gainesville and the University of Florida to develop a viable traffic model. It was crucial to avoid rerouting traffic during University of Florida sporting events, especially home football games that attract more than 100,000 attendees.
 
By rerouting either the northbound or southbound lanes through Downtown Gainesville from midnight to 4:00 am, the construction schedule – and service to travelers – continued uninterrupted and without a single recorded accident.
 
Aesthetics. Both the developer and the county wanted to make the project a showcase bridge. Working within FDOT guidelines, TranSystems was able to include aesthetic elements. Cobra-headed light poles, under deck lighting, specialized fencing and a unique paint scheme all help the bridge seem like an extension of the new Celebration Point development.
 
From Design Approval to Completion, Less Than a Year 
As you can imagine, early concepts were refined and redrawn a number of times until all stakeholder needs for the best and most cost conscious solutions were satisfied. From design approval to completion, though, the Celebration Pointe Bridge went up in less than a year.
 
About the Authors
With more than 17 years of experience, Andy Nicol is well versed in the transportation and transit fields. Together with Eric Wooley’s 24 years of transportation design and management experience, they helped the Florida DOT tackle the first transit-oriented development in Alachua County. Along with their design team, they helped bring to life what will eventually offer more than one million square feet of dining, entertainment, shopping, office and residential space.
 
Contact Andy at awnicol@transystems.com
Contact Eric at ecwooley@transystems.com
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