Utuado, Puerto Rico
Award of Merit

Owner: Federal Highway Administration, Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division
Lead Design Firm: U.S. Bridge
General Contractor: Multiple Contractors

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph. Claiming nearly 3,000 lives, Maria destroyed homes, left the island without power and obliterated bridges. As part of the process of recovering from the devastation, the reconstruction of these bridges became a top priority. Within a short period of time, FHWA’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the support of the Puerto Rico Highway Authority, performed an assessment of the damaged structures. Officials quickly prioritized a list of projects and work began. Within just a six-week period, U.S. Bridge manufactured and completed installation of the bridges, using more than 850 metric tons of steel to create more than 950 ft of bridge.

While typical emergency bridges are designed to be temporary, these bridges were specifically created to remain in place, possibly for decades. Manufactured with standard parts, and not proprietary pieces, the bridges are designed to require minimal maintenance during their life span.

To hasten the replacement of these bridges, U.S. Bridge accelerated its manufacturing process, working on a 24/7 basis throughout the holiday season. The resulting labor and material demands challenged the company to utilize a larger supply chain than usual. Fortunately, all vendors rose to the occasion to help reconnect Puerto Rico’s devastated communities.