While drivers take a scenic trip down State Road 105 (Heckscher Drive), the award-winning Sisters Creek Bridge replacement provides a breathtaking view of the St. Johns River and miles of pristine salt marsh wetlands. This historic archaeological site is a staple in the Jacksonville community.
The existing bascule bridge was replaced with a new 3,300-foot, high-level fixed span structure and was recently recognized as an outstanding Design-Build Project during the 2018 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Florida Transportation Conference in Orlando.
“The existing bridge was old and past its design life,” said Stephen Fowler, structures engineer at RS&H.
Maintaining the pristine environment
The highly sensitive environmental and archeological area required complex permitting. The team used innovative techniques to reduce noise and vibrations to protect the salt marshes, historical sites, and endangered species. Additionally, poor soils were strengthened using ground improvement techniques.
“The area happens to be one of the most pristine salt marshes in all of Florida,” Fowler said.
In addition to the miles of salt marshes, the view from the Sisters Creek Bridge shows prehistoric shells that are native to the area. The team executed a comprehensive archaeological site protection work plan to avoid any disturbances.
Design-build success with the community in mind
“Sisters Creek Bridge is such a success because of the efforts of the team and what they overcame,” said Carrie Stainbridge, construction engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) “From the technical aspects to the public information aspects to the environmental considerations, they overcame and conquered.”
The team interactively polled FDOT with a series of questions to determine what was most important to them. The two main priorities of FDOT were driver and pedestrian safety.
Additionally, the team met with the largest stakeholder, BAE Systems (BAE) – a maritime shipyard – early in the process to understand the company’s concerns. BAE owned the pedestrian bridge crossing State Road 105, which is used by hundreds of employees throughout the day. The team developed a plan to keep the pedestrian bridge separated from the mainline State Road 105 traffic throughout the project, which enhanced pedestrian safety.
The team approached the project as a true partner to the community. Input provided by the community and local stakeholders helped guide the team’s approach to the project. Along with improving local access and safety, the RS&H-Archer Western team went beyond the project requirements to promote community usage of the under-bridge parking and kayak launch so the area could be fully accessed and enjoyed by all.
“We were able to blend in with the environment and the recreational facilities to make this more than just a bridge,” Fowler said. “It’s a destination.”