Founded in 1978, Creighton University is a private, coeducational, Jesuit university in Omaha, Nebraska. During a recent redevelopment project in the area, a bridge was needed to span U.S. Highway 75 North Freeway, connecting Creighton’s campus to the Atlas, a new residential and retail development housed in the former Creighton University Medical Center.
“There are a lot of Creighton students that live west of 30th,” said Todd Heistand, President of NuStyle Development, the project’s owner. “With the University separated by the North Freeway, the two needed to be joined together. And that was kind of the birth of the bridge.”
A 563’ x 10’ Keystone®-style Continental® Pedestrian Truss, 18-35 feet above the highway, was selected as the best solution. On the Creighton side, the bridge’s pier features a “Creighton” sign hung vertically in large, backlit letters. On the Atlas side, the bridge connects to the first of the more than 700 planned living units.
“The $5.7 million covered pedestrian bridge provided a signature structure connecting the Atlas development to Creighton,” stated Phil Rossbach, Vice President with HDR Engineering, the project manager. “Terminating on the east end at an elevator/stair tower on Creighton’s campus, the bridge aligns with the main pedestrian mall on the campus. The bridge’s design allows another span to be added from the elevator tower to a future building on the southwest corner of the campus.”
During installation of the bridge, Highway 75 was closed overnight on two weekends with alternate sides of traffic being closed so the bridge could be hoisted into place via crane. Multiple truss sections for each span were shipped to the site and field assembled on the ground. Erection of each span consisted of erecting the first field unit on temporary false work and then joining a second unit in the air. The trusses were designed to accommodate their own dead load and the supplementary arch sections accommodated live load.
Bridge construction required constant safety awareness related to freeway traffic, students and vehicle traffic on Creighton’s campus. All lane restrictions and closures on the freeway were coordinated and approved by Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) and included advanced public notice and alternate routes. As an added safety measure and to speed construction, the contractor suggested using prefabricated, ﬁber-reinforced, polymer deck panels, and prefabricated fencing and rooﬁng for the bridge spans. This allowed these components to be installed prior to truss erection, thus speeding work over the freeway lanes, minimizing lane closures, reducing construction worker exposure to traffic, and avoiding work over active traffic.
“After normal daytime hours, both ends of the pedestrian bridge require key card access, which is tied to the identiﬁcation card system used by Creighton faculty, staff and students, said Rossbach. “The enclosed bridge also includes closed circuit security cameras and lighting.”
Concerns for the long-term safety and maintenance of the privately-owned bridge over a public right-of-way were addressed through a NDOT-required air rights lease agreement, which included a transferable provision requiring the owner to maintain an escrow account for future maintenance or demolition.
The project itself was privately funded, but the North Freeway was constructed with state funds and has ramps that connect to the federally funded Interstate 480. For this reason, approvals were required from both NDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. Other parties involved included the City of Omaha, Creighton University, and NuStyle Development. The project was completed successfully, meeting both budget and accelerated schedule requirements.
“This pedestrian bridge marks an important development for our campus because it symbolizes our connection to our past, our present, and our future,” said Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, President of Creighton University. “This physical connection between the Atlas and our campus community, spanning the North Freeway with beauty and grace, holds great promise. Our neighbors will feel more welcome with the easy gateway to our campus and our academic and community connection will grow and strengthen.”