SAN DIEGO, California – The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) honored University of California San Diego (UCSD) and primary design consultant Kleinfelder with a 2022 PCI Design Award in the transportation best non-highway bridge category for the UCSD Mesa Housing Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge. The PCI Design Awards program recognizes design excellence and construction quality using precast concrete and the use of innovative and advanced technology and ideas. This is the seventh award UCSD and Kleinfelder have received for this iconic bridge project.

The $10 million bridge links the UCSD Mesa Graduate Housing neighborhood with the East Campus Medical Center. The bridge spans 465 linear feet and features a 10-foot-wide bike lane and a 6-foot-wide pedestrian walkway.  As the lead design firm, Kleinfelder was responsible for providing expert studies to determine bridge alignment based on several factors including cost, construction ease, environmental impacts, and community value.

Several bridge types were considered for this project, including steel truss, steel girder, precast concrete girder, and stress ribbon. Kleinfelder ultimately settled on a three-span, precast concrete spliced-girder bridge with a 190-ft-long middle span. “Use of precast concrete was the option with the highest cost savings, resilience, durability, and the least maintenance,” said Kleinfelder Project Engineer Sami Megally. “Use of precast concrete girders allowed the addition of all aesthetic features that make this bridge an architectural icon of the UC San Diego campus while protecting the environmentally sensitive area in the canyon below the bridge.”

Kleinfelder’s innovative use of spliced precast concrete girders in the bridge design accommodated the relatively long span length and minimized environmental impact, while extensive analysis of construction scenarios during the design phase helped navigate a complex construction sequence and accurately predict deformations of the bridge to ensure a straight deck profile.

The bridge’s unique aesthetic features, including significant curvatures in the edge of the deck and varying inclination of metal railings along the length of the bridge, made it essential to balance aesthetics and structural requirements in the design. The flowing design provides a visual transition to the natural canyon side, helping the bridge blend into the natural environment, while the use of two-tone glass-seeded Lithocrete finish with two different colors distinguishes the pedestrian path from the bicycle path, enhancing the experience of bridge users.

By bringing innovative ideas and solutions to the bridge design and construction process, the project team achieved a balance of safety, functionality, environmental sensitivity, community value, aesthetics, and cost savings. The bridge provides a significantly shorter, safer route to almost every part of the campus, enhancing access and connectivity while encouraging walking and biking.

Kleinfelder Project Manager Keith Gazaway believes this project demonstrates how a precast concrete girder bridge project can evoke a positive image of engineering excellence in terms of architectural design and structural feasibility. “The project also is a testimony to the fact that precast concrete girders with extended span limit can be used for architecturally innovative bridge crossings over areas where conventional formwork is not feasible or too costly.”

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