Who knew that dish soap was the secret ingredient to bridge building?

Engineers from around the United States, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and its partners all gathered on Tuesday to watch something truly remarkable. Two bridges on Interstate 15 near Mesquite were replaced in a matter of hours using hydraulic jacks, metal beams and cleaner of greasy casserole dishes everywhere: Dawn dish soap.


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Traditional bridge construction can take anywhere from eight months to a year, but this new accelerated method for bridge replacement reduces construction time exponentially. In fact, construction crews said they only had to detour traffic for 56 hours.

The overpass slabs were built on metal frames right next to the bridges being retrofitted. Hydraulic jacks and cranes were used to lift and slide the slabs onto Teflon rails lubricated with dish soap. Each slab slid about five feet at a time until secured into place.

But don't work yourself into a lather over the technical details of this method, because as you can imagine, there's no real engineering guidelines for sliding a bridge into place with dish soap.

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"It’s kind of an art at this point," Marty Strganac, NDOT's resident engineer, told the Las Vegas Sun.

The bridge slide is part of the I-15 West Mesquite Interchange Project, a $14 million endeavor to improve the interstate's connectivity.

Along with NDOT, W.W. Clyde and Company, Horrocks Engineers and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada contributed to designing and building the bridges.

More than six bridge slides have been performed in Utah, where the design companies are based. This was the first bridge slide in Nevada.

[Via Las Vegas Sun]

Credit: Julie Duewel, NDOT Photographer