The crossing of the Truckee River at Virginia Street served as the starting point for Reno’s rich history. An earth-filled concrete-arch bridge served the area since 1905 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After more than a century of use, the former Virginia Street Bridge showed serious signs of extreme wear and needed to be replaced to ensure continued public safety, as well as to improve flood conveyance. The City of Reno, in partnership with the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Highway Administration, implemented a plan to replace the bridge while respectfully preserving its distinguished history.
The new bridge is a reinforced concrete, rigid frame, tied arch bridge. The arch above the roadway supports the bridge deck using cable hangers. The bridge is 166 feet long and varies in width from about 84 feet to 98 feet. In addition to the bridge, the project reconstructed the sidewalks north and south of the river as well as the roadway along Virginia Street between the intersections of Mill and First Streets. A new river access point was added between Virginia Street and Center Street for increased opportunities to enjoy the river.
Construction of the bridge began in June 1, 2015 and completed on April 12, 2016. Q&D Construction completed the project in 180 working days over a period of 10 months. This was 2-3 months ahead of the anticipated schedule for the project. To achieve this acceleration, Q&D Construction employed a unique construction technique called the ‘bridge launch’. This launch allowed for simultaneous construction of the arches and the bridge foundations.
The two arches were constructed in the Virginia Street south of the river. Once the arches and the bridge foundations were completed, they were pushed, or launched over the river channel. Q&D Construction completed the launching the arches on October 15. It took a total of 4 days to complete the 185 foot trip across the river. The 400 ton arches were moved using four 100 ton hydraulic rams. The rams were capable of pushing the arches at a rate of about four inches per minute, but due to friction and other variables the rate was often less. Liquid dish soap was used in order to reduce the effects of friction during the launch. The two arches were moved together supported by temporary bracing to keep them upright and in alignment. Q&D installed temporary falsework across the river channel to support the arches as they moved north. Upon completion of the launch, the arches were lowered about 26 inches to their final location on the abutments. Once the rebar and concrete is completed at each abutment, the temporary river falsework can be removed and the bridge will support its own weight.
For some additional facts about the launch, we encourage you to visit the FAQ page of the website.
The Virginia Street Bridge Ribbon cutting ceremony was April 12th, 2016, and Virginia Street reopened to traffic the following evening.
The Virginia Street Bridge is one with a long and storied past. While several bridges have stood in her footprint in the heart of downtown Reno, the current earthen-filled concrete-arch bridge dates back to 1905. This was a time when Reno’s economy, which had been closely tied to the mining industry was earning the title “Sin City” as it diversified to include legal brothels, underground gambling and speedy divorces. The bridge came to fame as Reno became known as the divorce capital of the world.
An iconic image that became embedded in the national consciousness was that of women, divorce decree in hand, descending the steps of the Washoe County Courthouse, approaching the railing of the Virginia Street Bridge and casting their wedding rings into the waters of the Truckee River. This scene was played out on the silver screen in numerous films from the 1939 “Reno” about the life and times of a Nevada divorce lawyer, to the 1961 epic “The Misfits,” a love story of a depressed divorcee and an aging cowboy starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.
In 1980, along with other historically significant buildings, the Virginia Street Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, over 14,000 Reno residents and visitors use the Virginia Street Bridge every day.
This brief video shows a little about the history of the Virginia Street Bridge. http://youtu.be/pqtfWSBhuIU