UVU Pedestrian Bridge Over I-15 Rises

A milestone was reached as a steel beam was set in place Tuesday on a much-anticipated pedestrian bridge at Utah Valley University.



A milestone was reached as a steel beam was set in place Tuesday on a much-anticipated pedestrian bridge at Utah Valley University. The bridge will cover the expanse of Union Pacific and FrontRunner train tracks and I-15.

“This is the longest pedestrian bridge that we are aware of in the state of Utah, with it being almost 1,100 feet in length, as well as being nearly 2 million tons of steel when you add the roof to it,” said Geoff Dupaix, the senior communications manager for UDOT Region 3. “That is the equivalent of about four to five freight engines put together, so that’s a lot of steel.”

The bridge will provide a safe, direct route for UVU students and faculty traveling back and forth from housing, the Orem Intermodal UTA transportation Center, and the university’s west campus. Currently, the only pedestrian access is a sidewalk on the I-15 University Parkway interchange.

“We think this is an amazing project for the university because it will link 8,000 beds which are located on the other side of the freeway, as well as 25 acres where we have our health professionals’ campus, with our main campus, and basically create a walkable campus which will create an integrated transportation system for the university,” said Val Peterson, vice president of Finance and Administration at Utah Valley University.  But, he says, it will also benefit anyone in the community that enjoys the activities and events on the Orem Campus.

“It creates a walkable community for our venues such as the UCCU Center where we play sports, where we hold multiple events for the community; it will also link in the Noorda Center with our performing arts, plays, concerts. You will be able to take FrontRunner to Utah Valley University and literally be able to walk over to our campus and attend those events.”

The pedestrian bridge is years in the making. Dupaix said it is the product of a collaborative effort that began with Utah Valley University, Mountainland Association of Governments, the Utah Department of Transportation, and Utah Transit Authority. He said it started with one crucial question, “Just having the conversation several years ago about what can be done to make things better over here?” Dupaix also said it is part of a larger conversation about the state. “It really started as a groundswell — just having these conversations from these various organizations, as well as a change of philosophy in how we do our business and how we try to keep people moving in Utah.”

How they keep pedestrians “moving” above I-15 involves the creation of a state-of-the-art bridge. It includes a gentle curvature to avoid a “tunnel feeling,” elevators for ADA and bicycle access, extra-wide width, a covered roof with perforated sides for comfort, and a heated deck and roof. Those features allow for a comfortable two and a half to three-minute walk, but they also provide additional safety to pedestrians and the traffic below.

“We take a lot of pride in making sure that what we build will hold up and last for decades to come. That is why we added features such as a rooftop to keep people out of the elements as well as heating the bridge deck itself so that you don’t have to worry about any ice or any type of snow accumulating on the bridge, because that not only makes it unsafe for pedestrians but also for the motorists who are driving underneath the bridge,” Dupaix said.

An estimated 5,000-6,000 students will use the bridge daily when it opens. Still, the number could reach 20,000 in the future as an expansion of residential development, and the UVU campus occurs on the west side of I-15. Peterson said the project is forward-thinking.

“As you look at the Wasatch Front, you are going to need to see more collaboration, more integrated transportation systems, so people will be able to move between one side of the freeway, to the other side of the freeway, to major destination points, and to be able to do that walking is amazing in an urban environment.”

The bridge will continue to rise with periodic lane restrictions and closures on I-15 in the area of University Parkway as more girders are put in place. The next phase will occur on the northbound side of the freeway on Saturday, May 9. I-15 will close overnight, beginning at 10:30 p.m. for about 12 hours, and reopening on Sunday morning. Another closure is scheduled for May 16-17 when the southbound side of the freeway will close during the same timeframes.

The goal is to have the UVU pedestrian bridge operational by the end of 2020 and fully finished by the spring of 2021.