SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Ever wondered what it would be like to drive on blocks of foam? Probably not. But you’ll still get the chance soon in Davis County as the Utah Department of Transportation uses an innovative new building solution.
The material being used is called geofoam, which is similar to the Styrofoam you might see in ice chests or packing materials, according to UDOT. The ramp in question will connect the future West Davis Highway with Interstate 15 South.
The biggest convenience in using geofoam, said UDOT Public Relations Director John Gleason, is that it makes the roadway lighter, leading to less sinking, shifting and settlement. By using a normal dirt base, the weight of the ramp would “cause the ground underneath to settle anywhere from several inches to a few feet.” While that’s normal in road construction, Gleason said the ramp in question is too close to nearby Union Pacific Railroad and Utah Transit Authority train lines for risks to be taken with settlement.
“Sometimes there are unique challenges on our projects, and they require innovative solutions,” said Rex Harris, UDOT project director for the West Davis Highway. “Geofoam is another tool in our toolbox to efficiently build the roads, trails and bridges we all need to get where we want to go.”
Gleason said the Davis County ramp will be built with approximately 3,000 geofoam blocks, each weighing around 200 lbs. and measuring 4 feet by 5 feet by 9 feet. The blocks are brought to the construction site and then either placed as-is or cut to fit as needed. Once all the blocks are in place, a concrete slab is poured on top to evenly distribute the load of the ramp pavement and traffic, and concrete walls are installed along the sides.
Geofoam has previously been used in Utah in prior I-15 construction projects, including a project leading to the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 1100 South bridge over I-15 in Brigham City, the 5600 West bridge near 700 South in Salt Lake City.