Behind the Scenes: Designing Jackson Hill Bridge, The Next Pedestrian Bridge For Buffalo Bayou in Houston

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What does it take to create a new link within an existing community? For SWA’s Houston designers, they have been hard at work for more than the past decade in creating a city-wide green system of Bayous and pedestrian trails for environmental—as well as social—good. And now, the famed Buffalo Bayou is getting another pedestrian bridge. In addition to creating ways to mitigate the wet landscape of this urban area, the park features a series of five bridges that cross the Bayou and connect neighborhoods together. The first pedestrian bridge over Buffalo Bayou was built at the Hobby Convention Center back in 2005 as part of the Buffalo Bayou Promenade. The Rosemont Bridge was built next in 2009 and opened in 2010 to great success.

Today, we spoke with Tim Peterson, Kevin Shanley, Josh Lock, and Scott McCready as they take us behind-the-scenes of the next bridge as it goes up between the Houston Heights and Montrose neighborhoods in Houston.

What’s the name of this next bridge and where is it located? 

The Jackson Hill Bridge spans Buffalo Bayou just west of Waugh Drive. Construction is slated to be finished by Fall 2013 and the bridge will be open to the public at that time.

How big is it?

345 Linear feet.

What is it made out of? 

Weathering steel truss bridge with pressure treated pine deck.

What is remarkable about the construction process for this bridge?

The bridge is being delivered in six sections and will be bolted together in sections of two and lifted into place. The clear span across the bayou from column to column stretches 150’. Galvanized guardrails are being fabricated along with the galvanized column pylons which will extrude an additional 15’ above the bridge deck and will be internally illuminated. The lighting will shine through a pattern that will be cut into the steel pylon surfaces. The pattern represents the changing appearance of the moon during the lunar cycle. Phase 2 work includes reforestation tree planting that will be installed in the areas where vegetation was cleared to make room for the bridge construction.

Here, they show us how it works — just how, exactly, this new bridge comes to be in its new home:

1_Before

The Jackson Hill Bridge is located at Waugh and Buffalo Bayou. Before construction started, the site was cleared to accommodate the crane and required machinery.

2_Piers Install

Fifty foot deep piers are filled with concrete and a matrix of rebar to anchor the structure. The Pedestrian Bridge was designed by SWA Group and RDP Engineers.

3_Rebar

A grid of rebar reinforces the Pier Cap.

4_Concrete Pad

Concrete was poured into the pier cap.

5_Galvanized Dipping

The 40’ tall columns are lowered into a bath of molten zinc until it reaches bath temperature of 840 degrees Fahrenheit, at which time the zinc reacts with steel to form zinc/iron intermetalic layers on all surfaces.

6_Galvanize Dipping 2

Workers guide the column out of the largest dipping tank in North America (approximately 60’ long and 8’ wide).

7_On the Truck

Each bridge column was placed on a flat bed truck and shipped to the site for installation.

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The column is lifted by a crane and slipped onto the awaiting pier cap (General Contractors: Millis Development, Inc.).

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Final adjustments are made and the column is bolted into place.

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The bridge is built offsite in a warehouse and delivered to the site in six sections. The clear span across the bayou from column to column stretches 150’.

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Two sections of the bridge are bolted together and lifted into place.

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The final stretch of the weathering steel truss bridge is lowered into place.

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Galvanized guardrails are being fabricated which will extrude an additional 15’ above the bridge deck at each column and will be internally illuminated. The lighting will shine through a pattern that will be cut into the steel pylon surfaces. The pattern represents the changing appearance of the moon during the lunar cycle.

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Bridge decking material is pressure treated southern yellow pine fastened to the steel truss bridge with corrosion resistant bolts. 

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Phase 2 work includes reforestation of the areas where vegetation was cleared to make room for the bridge construction. Abutments and columns are currently under construction at the Police Memorial where an additional pedestrian bridge to span Buffalo Bayou is under fabrication and schedule to arrive later this summer.

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Eager Houstonians look on as the Jackson Hill Bridge comes one step closer to completion.

What’s next?

Abutments and columns are currently under construction at the Police Memorial where an additional pedestrian bridge to span Buffalo Bayou is under fabrication and schedule to arrive later this summer.

Client: Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Designers: SWA Group
Structural Engineer: RDP Engineers
General Contractor: Millis Development, Inc.
Bridge Fabricator: Excel Bridge

This post was originally published on IDEAS by SWA Group and republished with permission on Landscape Urbanism.

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