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Bridge Named Achievement Award Winner

May 18, 2004

Crown jewel of Boston’s multi-billion-dollar Central Artery/Tunnel project, and the world’s widest cable-stayed bridge, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge was named the 2004 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Presented at the fifth annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) awards gala dinner in Tysons Corner, VA, the award celebrates the project’s significant contribution not only to the advancement of civil engineering, but also to the local Boston community. The bridge was chosen from a field of seven finalists, which were selected from the initial 24 nominations.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority selected HNTB Corporation and Figg Bridge Engineers to bring this landmark bridge to life. Crossing the Boston’s Charles River, the ten-lane bridge and its four-lane sister the Storrow Drive Connector, will more than double traffic capacity in the city’s northern gateway. The first four lanes opened to northbound traffic in March 2003, and when the bridge is fully operational in 2005, more than 110,000 motorists will travel the route daily to join with I-93 and Route 1. The $100 million bridge, praised by community leaders and residents, has become a city landmark.

“Not only was the city’s need for increased capacity met, but the local community has been given a new symbol of civic pride,” said ASCE President Patricia Galloway, P.E., F.ASCE, PMP. “The Zakim Bridge epitomizes the philosophy of form following function, which makes it a civil engineering marvel.”

Unique in several respects, the 183-foot wide Zakim Bridge is the first asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge in North America. Its use of an ungrouted stay cable system is a first in the United States, as is its combined use of steel in the main span and concrete in the back spans. Also on the bridge’s list of engineering firsts is a composite concrete tower with a high-performance steel inner core, and the use of internal viscous dampers and external helical beads on the stay cables to mitigate rain and wind oscillation.

All of these achievements were reached while working around several major site constraints. The layout of the back span was dictated by the need to avoid an existing six-lane bridge, including the addition of temporary openings in the south back span for the existing bridge columns. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Orange Line subway and a critical 36-inch water main had to be isolated from construction impacts and the transfer of bridge loads through soil-structure interaction. Despite these constraints, the designs and details were developed to maximize constructability, providing the contractor for the north back span with an option for incremental launching, and avoiding conflict with numerous other construction activities in the area.

OCEA was established in 1960 by the ASCE. OCEA winners, which have included the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the World Trade Center Towers, are selected on the basis of their contribution to the well-being of people and communities, resourcefulness in planning and design challenges, and innovations in materials and techniques. Merit finalists for the 2004 OCEA award include the Emergency Bypass Tunneling project in Hakalaoa Falls, Waipio Valley, Hawaii; the Integrated Water Transmission and Treatment Project in Clark County, Nevada; the Downtown Restoration Program’s Temporary WTC PATH Station in New York City; William H. Natcher Bridge which spans the Ohio River from Owensboro, Ky. to Rockport, Ind.; the New Braddock Dam in Braddock, Penn.; and the repaving of 389 km of war torn roads in 230 days in Kabul-Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The OPAL awards honor outstanding projects and professional civil engineers for lifelong contributions in five categories – public works, construction, management, design and education. The OPAL awards were inaugurated in April 2000.

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