Ogden's 24th Street Viaduct
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The 24th Street viaduct has been a landmark in downtown Ogden for many, many years. The original 24th Street viaduct was completed in 1909 and crossed over just the combined UP-SP railroad mainlines and a few yard tracks. It dropped back to street level and the road continued westward to cross the river and connect with Wilson Lane. The viaduct was built, owned and maintained by the railroads. It was extended in 1921 to cross over more yard tracks, but still dropped to street level and connected with Wilson Lane.
During the mid 1920s the railroads decided that they wanted to fully use all the land between Union depot and the river, and in 1926 extended their railroad-owned viaduct westward to connect with the recently paved 24th Street up on the West Ogden bluff. Weber County had paved both 24th Street and Wilson Lane, and this new extension and its side ramp to Wilson Lane connected with these two recently paved roads. There was a brief delay in the completion of the new viaduct when American Packing & Provision (later sold to Swift) complained that if the new viaduct did not connect with Wilson Lane (today known as Exchange Road), they would be forced out of business, stating that almost all of their products were shipped by truck to Ogden by way of the existing viaduct. The railroads added a "fork" in the new viaduct that dropped down to street level, crossed the river on the existing one-lane bridge, and connected with Wilson Lane. This was in 1926, and the Ogden Union Stock Yards were not yet the big business that they would soon become, although the coliseum had just been completed in 1922. The Stock Yards Exchange building was built in 1931, and the stock yards business grew rapidly after that.
The viaduct built in 1926 remained in service for another 68 years. It had been built using heavy timber construction, with a 4-inch layer of asphalt as the road surface. The actual crossing over the rail yards used steel truss bridges. Over the years, to increase the load limit of the structure, several of the longer spans of wooden timber stringers were replaced with steel beams. Included in the original construction was an overhead crossing of Wall Avenue, with a clearance of 12 feet, adequate for the time. Throughout most to the time period, Wall Avenue was a two lane road. By the 1960s, traffic was growing and Ogden increased Wall Avenue to four lanes, except where the viaduct crossed overhead. Overhead clearances of the viaduct continued to limit Wall Avenue to just two lanes at this point. The low clearances and the traffic choke point at the viaduct soon became a safety issue, as more and more trucks were scalped by the low steel beams of the viaduct.
In 1967, Ogden City, along with Weber County and the railroads approached the state highway department, asking that the entire viaduct be replaced. But the state was fully involved with frantic construction of the federally funded Interstate system across the entire state and declined to become involved, especially since 24th Street was not a state road. However, Wall Avenue was a state road and the state was willing to do something to remove the safety issues of squeezing it down to two lanes at the viaduct. The state road commission stated that the replacement of the 24th Street viaduct would be added to its list of projects, with a start date after 1975, after the new 21st Street exit and access road into Ogden were set to be completed.
The safety issues along Wall Avenue moved the project to the front of the list and in May 1968, work began on a new concrete and steel extension for the 24th Street viaduct as it crossed Wall Avenue. The entire viaduct was closed for a year. The project replaced 470 feet of the original viaduct (all of the viaduct east of the rail yards), and extended the eastward approach 360 feet along 24th Street, making a total of 830 feet of new construction. The viaduct and its new eastward extension opened for general use on April 30, 1969.
Planning and engineering studies began for the complete replacement of the remaining 1,200 feet of railroad-owned viaduct. As early as 1972, Utah applied for $3 million in federal funds to pay for the viaduct replacement. It took almost three years for local business and community groups, along with support from the governments of Ogden City, Weber County, the State of Utah, as well as the state's congressional representatives to show the need for a new viaduct. Finally in May 1975, the Secretary of Transportation informed Senator Frank Moss that the project to replace the 24th Street viaduct had been approved to receive the needed federal funding.
In July 1975, bids were opened and the lowest bid was $3.6 million. Work started on August 18, 1975, when the 24th Street viaduct was closed to traffic. Demolition of the old steel and wood viaduct began and new concrete pillars and steel beams were placed. The new 24th Street viaduct was opened for general use on June 23, 1976, following a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. Contractor crews continued with final finishing tasks, including painting the steel beams, and finishing other parts of the new structure.
Built In 1909
The original bridge crossing over the railroad tracks was completed in 1909. That bridge ended about midway across the rail yards, bringing automobiles and other traffic to the bridge crossing the Weber River and allowing them to continue westward along Wilson Lane, past the Ogden Union stockyards. The expansion of the rail yards in Ogden, completed in 1926, forced the reconstruction of the steel 24th Street viaduct (completed in 1909) to extend it directly to the West Ogden Bluff.
On December 31, 1907, Ogden's mayor approved a city ordinance that allowed the railroads and their local subsidiary company, Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company, to build and maintain a viaduct over their railroad tracks. (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 19, 1921)
In late April 1908, work began on the new steel bridge taking 24th Street across the rail yards. The bridge was funded by Union Pacific and Southern Pacific as a safety measure due to increased road traffic between downtown Ogden, and the area west of the Weber River. The work included excavation for footings and foundations, with the contracts for steel work to be awarded soon. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 27, 1908)
By mid February 1909, all the foundation and preparation work had been completed, with steel erection set to start by February 22. Work was to be completed within 90 days. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 23, 1909)
On May 6, 1909, the new 24th Street viaduct was opened to general use. The lights were connected and would be lighted for the first time on the evening of the same day. Also at the same time, fences were to be erected at each end of the old at grade crossings and these same crossings closed and torn out. The railroad watchman whose job it was to stop traffic using the grade crossings, were removed from their jobs at the same time. (Salt Lake Herald Republican, May 7, 1909)
The viaduct built in 1909 was owned and maintained by the railroad companies. There were regular complaints throughout the early 1920s concerning the condition of the roadway, and the need for extensive repairs. Planning began in September 1921, with meetings between city and county officials, and state road commission officials in Salt Lake City to request state funding and aid for the extension and improvement of the existing structure. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 29, 1921)
On October 19, 1921, the Ogden Board of Commissioners approved a city ordinance allowing the railroad companies to construct and maintain an extension of the existing 24th Street viaduct. This new extension was to meet the existing structure about midway along its length, and extend the viaduct across additional railroad tracks to bring the viaduct closer to West Ogden. (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 19, 1921)
By late November 1921, a new wooden structure was well under way extending the 24th Street viaduct. A layer of four inches of asphalt paving was to laid on top of the wooden structure when it was completed, with completion planned by Christmas 1921. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 29, 1921)
This extension returned to ground level and the road connected with Wilson Lane, crossing the Weber River on an existing one-lane bridge. This one-lane bridge was replaced in 1968-1969 as part of the project that extended the 24th Street viaduct eastward from its crossing of Wall Avenue.
During late 1923, the railroad companies announced that they wanted to make use of all the ground between the Union depot and the Weber River. This meant that the existing (and recently extended) 24th Street viaduct would have to be extended further to cross the river and connect with the West Ogden ridge. By extending the viaduct to cross the river to meet the West Ogden ridge, all of the land would then be available to add additional tracks that were badly needed to improve railroad operations. New trackage was to be added between 18th Street and 30th Street, along the western side of the yards. Recent paving projects by Weber County had placed concrete paving along both Wilson Lane and 24th Street in West Ogden westward from the west limits of Ogden City. An unpaved connector road (today's B Avenue) dropped down from the bluff, connecting the two paved roads. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 17, 1923; November 26, 1923)
In September 1923, as part of his seeking re-election, the mayor of Ogden promised that the 24th Street viaduct would soon be extended to meet the eastern end of the recently completed paving of 24th Street in West Ogden. Discussions began in late 1924, and by January 1925 there were a series of meetings between Ogden City, Weber County, and the railroad companies to discuss how the projected cost of $216,000 was to be split among the parties. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 27, 1923; January 24, 1925)
In mid March 1925, American Packing & Provision asked that a fork be included as part of the new viaduct, stating that almost all of its products were shipped by truck into Ogden by way of the existing 24th Street viaduct. Without a fork providing a connection between the viaduct and Wilson Lane, the packing company would not be able to ship its products. The fork to Wilson Lane would add $10,000 to the cost of the new viaduct. The increased cost delayed the final financial agreement needed before construction could begin. (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 15, 1925)
Financial problems were announced in late December 1925, in which Ogden City stated that it was unable to raise its portion of the funds needed to begin construction. The railroad companies and Weber County had already made the needed arrangements to provide their share of the costs. On December 29th, Ogden City approved its budget for 1926, which included $75,000 as the city's portion of the new viaduct. (Ogden Standard Examiner, December 22, 1925; December 29, 1925)
During March 1926, the railroads submitted plans for the new viaduct to Ogden City and Weber County. Representatives of both agencies approved the plans, with a few changes. As soon as the plans were revised and re-submitted, contracts would be awarded, hopefully as near the planned April 1st begin date as possible. A meeting with the Utah state road commission found that the new road would not be part of the state's road system, and the state declined to participate. Weber County's attorney made final approval in mid April after it was agreed that the new road would be the sole county access to the west side of Ogden, and that no other county roads would provide access. Bids for the construction of the new viaduct were to be opened on May 24, 1926. The bid opening date was moved to June 2nd. (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 12, 1926; April 15, 1926; May 3, 1926; May 26, 1926)
Work began on the extended viaduct on June 13, 1926. A detour was completed that had traffic crossing the railroad tracks at 21st Street, then south along the east side of American Packing & Provision to a connection with Wilson Lane. The existing viaduct was officially closed on Monday June 21st, and all traffic detoured. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 14, 1926)
The new viaduct was completed in November 1926. Access to the east end of Wilson Lane was provided by a ramp. Although the finishing touches took another week, on November 22, 1926, at 12 noon, all the whistles in the vicinity sounded and a parade proceeded across the bridge. Ogden mayor George E. Browning and others rode in the first automobile to cross the new bridge, following behind the Ogden high school band. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 22, 1926)
During the late 1960s, more changes came to 24th Street viaduct. The eastern end of bridge built in 1926 descended to street level immediately east of its crossing of Wall Avenue. As traffic increased, and trucks got larger, the close clearances for large vehicles passing along Wall Avenue and under the viaduct became a problem. Ogden City wanted to change Wall Avenue to be four lanes, but the close clearances would not allow trucks in the outside lanes. Replacing the entire viaduct would be expensive, so Utah Road Commission decided to fix just the problem at the east end. The extension to the east was planned as early as May 1967, when community groups and the Ogden city council gave their support in the form of letters to the Utah State Road Commission. At the time, plans were for the entire structure of the 24th Street viaduct to be replaced after 1969, and after the new Interstate 15 exit and direct access route along 21st Street were completed. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 2, 1967; May 10, 1967)
On June 2, 1967 the Utah Road Commission notified Ogden City that it would begin the project to extend the 24th Street viaduct at the end of 1967. The cost was projected to be $450,000 and the project would take about six months to complete and extend the viaduct eastward 120 feet, which in turn would allow increased clearances along Wall Avenue, and increasing Wall Avenue from two lanes to four lanes. This was to be the first phase of an overall plan to replace the entire structure of the 24th Street viaduct, with this extension being moved from the end of the overall project, sometime in 1971, to the project's beginning due to the unsafe nature of restricting Wall Avenue to two lanes as it passed under the current viaduct. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 2, 1967)
In preparation for the start of construction, work began in mid April 1968 to relocate utility lines from under the center of the street, to new locations along the sides, under the curbs. This was needed to allow proper compaction of the new earthen fill at the eastern end of the extension of the viaduct. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 14, 1968; April 17, 1968)
On May 28, 1968, the Utah Department of Highways opened bids for its project to extend the 24th Street viaduct. The project would cost $415,000 and included new construction of 360 feet above Wall Avenue and eastward along 24th Street. The new portion would be 32 feet wide, nine feet wider than the existing structure that had been completed in 1926. A minimum of 20.5 feet clearance (increased from 12 feet) would be provided above Wall Avenue, and because Wall Avenue was a state road, it would be widened to four lanes at the same time. The remaining portion of the viaduct (1,200 feet) westward of the extension and directly above the rail yards and including the connection to 24th Street in West Ogden, remained under railroad (OUR&D) ownership and maintenance. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 8, 1968; May 29, 1968)
The portion of the viaduct east of the rail yards, and directly crossing Wall Avenue was started in June 1968. Actual road closure took place on July 9th. The 24th Street viaduct was closed until May 1969 while a new eastern ramp for the viaduct was completed. The new concrete ramp for the 24th Street bridge cost $415,000, and was nine feet wider than the old steel bridge, which remained in place for the crossing of the rail yards. Although only 90 percent complete, traffic was allowed to travel on the new portion, and across to West Ogden beginning on April 30, 1969. (Ogden Standard Examiner, July 9, 1968; May 1, 1969)
With traffic once again flowing, the railroads announced that on June 9th, they would begin replacing the deck on their portion of the existing viaduct, 1,200 feet in length, by removing the existing deck and pavement, and replacing it with new wooden deck covered by a new asphalt layer. The job, and subsequent repeated closure of the viaduct, was planned to take six weeks. The Utah Department of Highways had placed a 5-ton load limit on the railroad-owned structure due to its age. The viaduct was reopened to traffic on July 10, 1969. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 2, 1969; May 28, 1969; June 17, 1969; July 10, 1969)
(The apparent reason for the delay by the railroads to start the re-decking project was that they were fully occupied with the planning and successful completion of the May 10, 1969 centennial celebrations of the driving of the golden spike.)
1976 New Viaduct
A later second phase of the modernization of the 24th Street viaduct was completed in 1976, when the old wood and steel portion over the rail yards was demolished and replaced by a more modern two-lane concrete viaduct. This later phase had its beginning on August 15, 1972 when the Utah Road Commission applied for $3 million in federal highway funds, to be used to completely replace the existing railroad-owned viaduct with a new two-lane modern concrete structure. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 3, 1972; December 1, 1972)
On several occasions during 1973 and early 1974, letters of support by local business groups, Ogden City, Weber County, State of Utah, and the state's congressional delegation were sent to the Federal Highway Administration encouraging release of the funds needed to replace the 66-year-old structure. Several "community involvement" meetings were held seeking public support for the project. The project was the top priority for among all of Utah's highway projects, but on August 3, 1974, the federal Secretary of Transportation formally denied the state's request. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 14, 1974; August 3, 1974)
On May 28, 1975, the federal government gave Utah its final approval for the replacement of the 24th Street viaduct. By that time, the structure, completed in 1926, was designated as the most dangerous bridge in Utah, and its load limit had been reduced from 15 tons to 12 tons. Bids were requested, with a closing date of July 15, 1975. The project was to be completed by June 30, 1976. Bids were opened on July 15th and the successful bid was $3.6 million. (Ogden Standard Examiner, July 27, 1976; August 15, 1976; August 18, 1976)
The 24th Street viaduct was closed on August 18, 1975. Workmen placed barricades at each end and demolition began at 8 a.m. Demolition was to be completed by December 1st, and the entire project completed by June 30, 1976. (Ogden Standard Examiner, August 18, 1975)
The new 24th Street viaduct was opened for general use on June 23, 1976, following a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. Contractors had not yet painted the steel beams supporting the structure, and there was to be about one week of travel using just one lane as crews continued to work on the road surface. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 23, 1976)