Ames Constructs Safer Passage for an Arizona Community

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Life in Tonto Basin, Arizona, just got a lot easier—and safer.

More than 200 residents, transportation officials, and politicians celebrated the opening of the new Tonto Creek Bridge at a ribbon cutting in late June.

For locals, the bridge is years in the making. Until now, residents who lived east of the creek would be cut off from food, medical supplies, emergency services, work, and school for days or weeks at a time whenever the creek flooded.

The only route in and out was unpaved and hours-long—an impractical solution for commuters and school kids and a dangerous one for persons experiencing a medical emergency. Tragically, eight people died trying to cross the swollen creek on foot or in vehicles in the last 25 years, including three children in 2019.

Overcoming construction challenges

Ames Construction began building the 1,980-foot-long, 40-foot-wide, precast concrete girder bridge in October 2022.

The first challenge for Ames was limited construction easement. The original easement was only 100 feet wide along the bridge alignment—not wide enough for crane and truck access to set the precast girders or for pump and concrete truck access to pour the deck concrete. The Ames team sought and secured additional easement from the project owner and the U.S. Forest Service.

Groundwater 8-9 feet below the surface posed another challenge. Part of the project included gabion scour protection at the bridge abutments. The gabions (rock-filled wire baskets) are more than 18 feet deep, with the bottom baskets about 10 feet below the water table. Ames dewatered the excavation by channeling the water to sumps where pumps were installed.

Working in harmony with nature

Surrounded by Tonto National Forest, the Tonto Creek Bridge area is home to several endangered species, including the northern Mexican garter snake, the southwestern willow flycatcher, and the western yellow-billed cuckoo.

Clearing activities were limited to October 1-April 15 to ensure that construction would not disturb breeding attempts of the birds. A full-time biologist inspected and cleared the work areas before each shift, monitored operations, and kept an eye out for the endangered snakes.

Strengthening communities

At the ribbon cutting, Ames Construction was honored to be recognized for its work by officials from the Federal Highway Administration and Gila County and the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. Ames is proud to construct projects that strengthen communities across the U.S., and it’s especially gratifying to build a structure that will have an immediate impact on safety and quality of life.