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ADOT bridge project on US 160 receives ASU Sustainable Infrastructure Award

Engineers used cutting-technology to reduce erosion at bridge on Navajo Nation
July 08, 2019

PHOENIX ‒ The Arizona Department of Transportation has won an award for using cutting-edge data collection and modeling for a US 160 bridge project that created a sustainable, resilient solution to erosion from a meandering creek on the Navajo Nation.

Laguna Creek Bridge-After ProjectArizona State University’s Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering selected ADOT’s Laguna Creek Bridge improvement as one the recipients of its 2019 Sustainable Infrastructure Awards. Faculty reviewed nominations from public, private, nonprofit and academic organizations on innovative approaches that advance sustainability in infrastructure.

ADOT’s 2017 project about 25 miles east of Kayenta addressed severe scouring of the Laguna Creek Bridge’s abutments, protected the creek banks and reduced the channel’s meandering at the bridge. To accomplish this, engineers installed gabion baskets, which are metal cages filled with rocks.

While engineers designing similar improvements needed in short time frames often have limited data on matters such as stream flows, ADOT, coordinating with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Arizona Water Science group, made the Laguna Creek Bridge a pilot site to test next-generation monitoring technologies. These include sensors and gauges providing real-time surface flow data during and after storms, drones, video cameras, laser-aided surveying and 3-D surface modeling.

Collecting this data for a year prior to construction provided a comprehensive view of the creek’s flow and velocity, allowing engineers to compare the current channel with a time-lapse view of how it has changed over time and anticipate what will happen in the future. The instruments continue to provide data that will help engineers assess the effectiveness of work to stabilize the banks where US 160 crosses Laguna Creek and determine whether additional improvements may be needed.

“Beyond the Laguna Creek Bridge project, integrating this approach with ADOT’s design and operation of highway infrastructure will help enhance sustainability and resilience by looking at historic, current and potential conditions, including the impacts of extreme weather,” said Steven Olmsted, National Environmental Policy Act assignment manager with ADOT Environmental Planning.

Meanwhile, the technology helped engineers design a project that avoided disturbing a culturally significant site near the Laguna Creek Bridge.

ASU’s Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, seeks through research, teaching, outreach and public service to provide a basis for understanding how engineered and built systems are integrated with natural and human systems. To learn more, please visit metis.asu.edu.

For more information on ADOT’s sustainable transportation initiatives, please visit azdot.gov/SustainableTransportation.

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