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UVU pedestrian bridge
The UVU pedestrian bridge spans across the bustling I-15 at 35 ft in the air, which complicated the design and installation of the snow and ice melting (SIM) system. (Photo Courtesy of Thermal Engineering, LLC)

Apedestrian bridge connecting students to the Utah Valley University (UVU) campus needed a consistent, reliable snow and ice removal solution that did not require salting or sanding surfaces or moving equipment across the structure. Funding for this pedestrian bridge had been factored into UVU’s master plan since 1993, as a way to provide access between the Intermodal Center in Orem and the UVU campus. The bridge project was approved in 2016 and construction began in 2018.

Upon completion, the UVU bridge project became Utah’s largest pedestrian bridge. The 15-foot-wide bridge spans more than 1,000 ft (more than three football fields) across I-15. Elevators on each side of the bridge accommodate pedestrians, bikes and scooters. The UVU Bridge officially opened in February 2021.

To learn more about the UVU pedestrian bridge project and how it came together, Facility Executive spoke with Scott Draper, Asst. Director Physical Plant at UVU.

Facility Executive: What would you say are some of the most innovative features included in this new bridge?

Scott Draper: Utah Valley University’s new pedestrian bridge is an impressive feat of engineering and design. At $37 million, it is the largest pedestrian bridge in Utah, measuring a thousand feet long. The bridge provides a crucial link between the UTA Intermodal Center and the UVU Campus, servicing up to 20,000 people per day.

What sets the bridge apart from others is the challenging site characteristics and project goals. The designers wanted to create a distinctive structure that would prioritize safety while still standing out visually. The bridge’s custom peak roofline, delta pier supports, controllable lighting, and sleek super structure achieve this goal, giving the bridge a unique look that is both functional.

The bridges design is also geared toward providing a dynamic user experience. Its curved pathway, semi-transparent perforated aluminum side enclosure, and peak roof form work together to provide a variety of framed views and spatially dynamic experiences for the users. The bridge is not just a functional structure: It is also an attraction that provides panoramic views of campus, Mount Timpanogos to the east, and Utah Lake to the west.

The upper elevator landings double as viewing platforms, giving pedestrians a chance to take in the beauty of the surrounding area. The bridge’s designers also paid attention to the smaller details streamlining the integration of lighting and drainage systems, and creating a sleek aesthetic refinement in the roof support columns and connections.

The bridge architecture shares an architectural character found at UVU, making it a natural extension of the campus. The cast-in-place concrete elevator towers, aluminum panels, and lighter color tones of the main structure blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment, making the bridge a true work of art.

FE: What ended up being the most challenging aspect of this construction? How did the team overcome this challenge?

Draper: Although the UVU pedestrian bridge is an impressive structure, it faced several challenges during its construction. One of the most challenging aspects of this project was the sites unique characteristics, which presented significant technical difficulties for the design team and construction crew.

The bridges location over I-15, a heavily traveled interstate, meant that construction could only take place during limited hours to minimize disruption to traffic. Additionally, the bridges unique design and curved pathway required precise measurements and coordination to ensure that each segment of the structure fit together seamlessly.

Another significant challenge was the bridges custom peak roofline, which required careful planning and construction to ensure that the roofline was both functional and visually striking. The project team had to develop a custom roof support system and work closely with the construction crew to coordinate the building process and ensure that each phase of construction went according to plan.

The project team also maintained open communication channels with all of the stakeholders, including the community, government agencies, and transportation authorities. They took steps to mitigate traffic disruptions and minimize the impact of the construction on the surrounding environment.

FE: How has the project been received by the campus community?

Draper: The new pedestrian bridge at UVU has been received positively by the community. The bridge has quickly become a new landmark and a point of pride for the students, faculty, and staff. It not only improves access between housing and education, but also provides a convenient commuting option for UVU employees and guests, thereby boosting the local economy. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in decreasing the number of cars on the surrounding roads and UVU parking lots, leading to better air quality, a greener environment, and an overall improvement in the quality of life for the residents in the area.

FE: What advice might you have for facility executives or managers interested in embarking on a project such as this one?

Draper: 1. Before starting the project, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the projects goals, budget, and timeline. Develop a detailed plan that outlines the projects objectives, scope, and budget.

2. It is essential to assemble a strong team of professionals who are experienced in design, engineering, and construction. This team should have a clear understanding of the project goals and be committed to working collaboratively to ensure success.

3. Maintaining open communication channels with all stakeholders, including the community, government agencies, and transportation authorities, is critical. Keep all parties informed of the projects progress, potential disruptions and milestones.

4. Even the best-planned projects can, and will encounter unexpected challenges. Plan for contingencies by building in extra time and budget reserves, and develop alternative plans for potential roadblocks.

5. Above all, prioritize safety and functionality. Ensure that the design and construction of the project prioritize the safety and convenience of the users. Aesthetics and innovation are important, but they should never come at the expense of safety of functionality.

6. Consider incorporating sustainable features into the project design and construction. Sustainable features such as energy-efficient lighting, renewable materials, and green infrastructure can help the project reduce its environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Project: Utah Valley University (UVU) Pedestrian Bridge, Orem, UT
Type of construction: Infrastructure for educational facility, opened 2021
Scope of project: 15,000 sq ft (1,394 sq m) of heated walkways at 15 ft (5 m) wide and nearly 1,000 ft (305 m) long
General contractor: Kraemer North America
Civil and mechanical engineer: WSP USA Inc.
Mechanical contractor: Thermal Engineering, LLC
Manufacturer’s rep: Rocky Mountain Integrated Solutions, Inc. (RMIS)
Distributor: Mountainland Supply
REHAU systems used: Snow and ice melting, RAUPEX® O2 barrier pipe

To learn more about this project, visit UVU’s website.

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Facility Executive Magazine