Published on March 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine


Billion Dollar Baby

The popular saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is often used when trying to illustrate that it takes a long time to create something complicated or impressive.

Provo Center Street - AFTER June 2012

Workers on the historic I-15 Utah County Corridor Expansion (CORE) project may have uttered this statement at some point during the project’s construction period, but the fact is no other billion dollar-plus public highway project in the nation has ever been completed in the time it took Provo River Constructors (PRC) to build I-15 CORE (less than 36 months).

I-15 CORE consisted of the reconstruction of 24 miles of Interstate from Lehi to Spanish Fork. The project widened the highway by two lanes in each direction, replaced the original asphalt with new 40-year concrete pavement, extended the Express Lane from Lehi Main Street to Spanish Fork, and rebuilt or replaced 63 bridges and 10 freeway interchanges.

Not only was the $1.1 billion project (construction cost; $1.725 billion total, including design fees, right-of-way acquisition, utilities, etc.) finished approximately six weeks ahead of schedule, it was also delivered $260 million under budget, according to I-15 CORE Project Director Todd Jensen of UDOT.

“It’s obviously a monumental accomplishment,” said Jensen. “There were a lot of factors which made this a successful project, one of them being our relationship with the contractors and our overall partnering process. We worked closely with Provo River Constructors to employ innovation at an unprecedented level to ensure we delivered this project in record-breaking time and under budget.”

If there is one buzz word UDOT officials preach on a consistent basis in today’s construction climate, “partnering” would be that word. It may sound cliché, it may garner a response of “yea, right” from an outside entity or contractor not familiar with UDOT’s mantra, but if you were to talk to any of the key executives on I-15 CORE from both the owner’s and contractor’s side, they’ll tell you the process works when all parties are committed to it, and it fosters an overall culture where owner and contractor are working together to accomplish the same goals.

“UDOT has been pro-partnering for years,” said Robert Stewart, I-15 CORE Deputy Project Director for UDOT. “PRC was vested in the entire project, and the owner and contractor were open and on board with all communications. The contractor’s goals become your goals. That’s why we were so successful.”
“(Partnering) is one of the core things at Fluor that we want in all our projects, not only with the client, but with other team members,” said PRC Project Director Scott Risley of Fluor (global headquarters in Irving, Texas), one of four companies that comprised the PRC joint-venture team. The others were Ames Construction, Salt Lake City, Ralph L. Wadsworth (RLW) Construction, Draper, and Wadsworth Brothers Construction (WBC), Draper. Fluor operated as the general managing partner and was awarded 42.5% of the contract. Ames received a 32.5% share, while RLW and WBC split 25% (12.5% each).

Risley said all four companies put their respective egos aside and worked together as one team throughout the three-year project.
“We had the right team members to put together a plan to get it built,” Risley said. “We had an $80 million design that had to be done in record time as well. We had to come up with an MOT (Maintenance of Traffic) plan and staging approach to be able to facilitate all processes, plus we had to have the manpower and equipment, and the knowledge to know how to get it done. We had four team members that all brought different aspects to solve those problems.”

Risley said Fluor’s greatest contribution was its management expertise on projects of this magnitude, both construction and design management. Ames’ greatest attribute is its knowledge of all aspects of roadway construction. RLW and WBC were brought in for their structures and concrete paving prowess, particularly in the area of Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).
“We operated like we’re all the same; we came together as one,” said Risley.

“The big challenge was keeping us all headed in the same direction,” said Travis Farr, WBC’s Project Manager. “You’re dealing with four different corporate cultures, four project managers with different personalities, and 1,600 workers at peak construction. Keeping everyone moving forward was challenging.”
“The key to our success was our key executives up front setting the pace,” added Wayne Bowden, Project Manager for RLW. “We set a lot of ground rules out of the gate; how to organize teams, put guys in leadership roles that could lead. We set a policy of zero tolerance in regards to backbiting in the field between different companies. You’d hear a little grumbling once in a while and squash it immediately.”

“We came to the project and worked together,” said Tim Odell of Ames, PRC Deputy Project Director in charge of construction. “We spent a lot of time during the proposal phase and got to know each other. The commitments we made to (UDOT) with our schedule, we had no option other than to have good teamwork. You don’t see too many billion dollar projects, but it’s similar to other projects I’ve managed. You take lessons learned from past projects and apply your experience with getting things done as quickly and safely as possible.”
Stewart even went so far as to compare I-15 CORE to the original I-15 Reconstruction that was constructed from January 1998 to July 2001.
“Based on our state’s history, the I-15 Reconstruction was delivered as a design-build project in 4.5 years. It was 17 miles, and most interchanges were closed for up to six months at a time. This project was delivered faster, and similar interchanges were closed at the longest for 90 days. Most were less than 60 days. That shows you how far construction has progressed in this state.”

The design team on the project consisted of HDR, Inc. of Salt Lake City (along with Fluor), with Michael Baker Jr. of Midvale, and Jacobs Engineering of Salt Lake City as major sub-consultants. Meeting the design schedule needed in order for construction to finish in three years proved complicated.
Manpower was a key component; at peak design time, 300 full-time engineers were involved in design with another 400 in support roles. The accelerated construction schedule was made possible by advancing design and constructing all segments concurrently, rather than in phases.

Design services included roadway design, drainage design, environmental permitting, traffic design, signing and striping, maintenance of traffic, geotechnical analysis encompassing materials, foundations, settlement, and MSE and soil nail walls, monitoring environmental mitigation commitments affecting both design and construction; landscape and irrigation design for the entire corridor, including plants, aesthetic treatments, and decorative rock and ground cover, arterial lighting design along the cross streets and interchange locations and high-mast lighting along I-15, traffic systems design including ATMS, and utility design and third-party coordination.

The I-15 CORE project featured a variety of innovative design and construction concepts, including Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC). ABC was used extensively throughout the project to minimize impacts to the traveling public, improve overall project quality, enhance safety for both construction personnel and the commuters, and expedite the completion of the project. Most notably, four bridges were constructed at locations off-corridor and moved into place over weekend closures via self-propelled modular transports (SPMTs). This greatly reduced the number of closures required, minimizing inconvenience to the traveling public.

Of the four bridges moved via SPMTs, the most notable was the Sam White Bridge in American Fork, a 354-foot, 3.82 million pound superstructure that marks the largest two-span bridge ever moved into place via SPMT’s in the Western Hemisphere. The reinforced concrete and steel beam bridge includes six girders at 13 ft 6 in spacing with a 4 ft 8 in overhang. The structure depth was approximately 7 ft, including a 10 ft deck. The girders use 70 ksi steel in the flanges over the bent and 50 ksi steel everywhere else. The framing plan used staggered perpendicular cross frames up to near the bent. It was built approximately 500 ft from its final location and took five hours to move, requiring an overnight closure of I-15, one of the only times a section of the highway was closed to the traveling public.

ABC is nothing new to UDOT and the contractors responsible for that work on I-15 CORE, Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction and Wadsworth Brothers Construction. Both companies have completed previous ABC bridge moves for UDOT, and both had a wealth of knowledge about ABC going into the proposal process.
“ABC was new for me personally, but it was something that helped us out a great deal,” said Risley. “When we were putting our proposal together, we looked at it as something that not only could help us win the job, but also help our MOT approach. The expertise that Ralph L. Wadsworth and Wadsworth Brothers brought to the table, because they had both done it in the past, was a huge benefit to the team. When you’re able to build a bridge off to the side and only have one actual closure, it makes a big difference. Building bridges in place require multiple lane closures. (ABC) is a little more expensive, but the benefits outweigh the cost.”

“We have grown a culture to not impact traffic and one method is ABC,” added Stewart. “We have the all-stars of bridge movers in this country here in Utah. We have the most experience locally in moving bridges. I don’t know that many other states would have taken on what we took on as naturally as we did. (ABC) is just a technique that we use; it’s another tool in the toolbox. It’s what we do.”

The use of ABC techniques on the project also led to the use of standardized Utah Bulb Tee shapes to maximize span-to-depth ratios across the project. Precast half-depth deck panels and light-weight concrete was used to facilitate bridge moves and optimize the structural steel bridges throughout the project. More than 500 precast girders were installed throughout the project, a huge number.

“The biggest challenge was meeting the very aggressive and evolving schedule,” said Lee Wegner of Hanson Structural Precast, Salt Lake City, which manufactured the precast girders. “We were literally producing shop drawings concurrent with design in order to not impact the project schedule.”

A revolutionary Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) plan was another critical factor throughout construction. In some respects, it was PRC’s most remarkable accomplishment. UDOT was adamant about minimizing traffic delays and required the team to maintain three lanes of traffic in each direction during construction. ABC helped alleviate delays on bridge construction aspects, and the design team used temporary widening, lane shifts, temporary walls, and lane narrowing to allow four lanes to remain open in each direction for most of the project, thereby exceeding contract requirements. Where space did not allow temporary new construction, HOV lanes were converted to general-purpose lanes, shoulder widths were reduced, and existing lanes were reconfigured to avoid lane reductions and keep traffic moving.

“I think one of the biggest innovations was (MOT),” said Jensen. “To rebuild 24 miles with 10 interchanges and 63 bridges that were either rebuilt or replaced, and to keep existing lanes (three or four) open virtually the entire time, is unheard of. It’s all about sequencing. That’s one of the big secrets to why it was completed in 35 months.”
Another innovation for keeping traffic moving was a method of installing concrete drainage pipe – “pipe jacking” –that avoided open cuts in the pavement, which would have required lane closures. The system uses augers or a tunnel boring machine with a cutting head to excavate under the freeway while simultaneously pushing pipe segments through to the other side.
The project used long rebar as reinforcement in small gauge pipe, which is also unique. “The rebar keeps the pipe straight,” according to Randy Whalen, Marketing Engineer of Oldcastle Precast, Ogden, producer of the pipe. Keeping pipe “dimensionally accurate,” is more critical with smaller pipe since “pipe that is even one-eighth inch off can induce a curve.”
ELVIS Helps With QA

Raba Kistner (RK), headquartered in San Antonio, was selected by PRC as the independent quality assurance firm, responsible for both design and construction.  In this role, RK performed as if they were the owner’s (UDOT) representative in a more traditional role, according to Clark Prothero, Vice President of Raba Kistner’s Orem office. The firm inspected and tested all of the work including embankment, borrow and backfill, untreated base course, hot-mix asphalt (575,000 tons), SMA asphalt (50,000 tons), structural concrete (200,000 cu yds), Portland cement concrete pavement (2.8 million sq yds, and backfill for MSE walls. Over 4.0 million cu yds of material was tested.
Prothero said his firm used a proprietary web-based software program called ELVIS – Electronic Laboratory Verification Information System – to track and retain all project information as it pertained to Quality Assurance for both design and construction. “We would conduct reviews at 30%, 60%, 90% and 100% during design and the information would go to our design reviewers and UDOT,” said Prothero. “They could make comments inside our system and communicate back and forth. If an issue couldn’t be resolved they would meet face-to-face. It kept the design moving quickly.”

The project was broken up into four segments for construction with over 40 control points per day in the beginning. Once information was gathered, Raba Kistner had to get it entered into ELVIS within 48 hours. That way anyone on the project team could review or audit the information in real time to ensure that PRC was meeting the overall quality assurance requirements.

“There was a willingness to work together between all parties and a realization that this project was the priority,” said Prothero. “There were hold points to make sure work was done properly. The contractor could never get too far ahead and it limited their risk. We made sure the work was inspected and built according to plan.”

In is original proposal, UDOT required a 30-year pavement life. PRC went a step further, offering a 40-year pavement. This was achieved by placing a 12-inch (12.5-inch in some sections) thick concrete slab placed over three inches of asphalt paving. In some sections, the existing asphalt pavement was in suitable condition to leave in place, which saved time tearing out old asphalt pavement and having to replace it.
In all, 2.8 million sq yds of Portland Cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP) were placed by crews from Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction and Wadsworth Brothers Construction. Kelly Steeves of RLW served as PRC’s concrete paving manager and said another innovation was the use of Leica’s PaveSmart System – a machine-controlled, wireless paving system that eliminates the need for string line and staking.

Steeves said the system utilizes a transmitter, laser gun and two prisms attached to the backside of pavers – one on each side. The laser constantly shoots a signal, which includes information about alignment and elevation.

“Due to extremely tight paving constraints we were under and the limited amount of room we working in, that’s how the team decided to go,” said Steeves, noting it was the first time either RLW or WBC had used wireless paving, let alone on a project of this magnitude. “There was obviously a learning curve on everyone’s part. But the management side of our paving division came together to make the new technology work. We had over 1,000 individual pave passes and the new technology saved us a lot of time.”

“One of the biggest advantages for us was once wires are set up it’s hard to have access for delivery trucks,” said Farr. “With the wireless system, there are no strings, people aren’t tripping over it, it provided better access, and paving engineers have better control. There is a lot more control and precision over the (paving) machine using a computerized system.”
Of the 24 miles of reconstruction, 22 miles were paved with PCCP, from Lehi Main Street bridge to the north bridge abutment of Spanish Fork Main Street. In addition, four of the 10 interchanges that were rebuilt were paved with PCCP – 500 East in American Fork, 1600 North and 800 North in Orem, and Provo Center Street.

RLW provided three pavers; WBC provided two. In addition, PRC bought one additional paver and leased one, for a total of seven pavers on the project. The largest paver was a Gamaco 4000, with a paving width capacity of 26 ft to 39 ft. There were also three Gamaco 2800 pavers (16 ft to 26 ft).
All of the concrete for the paving aspect of the project was provided by on-site batch plants.

State-of-the-Art Electrical Infrastructure

Hunt Electric of Salt Lake City provided the electrical construction across the entire 24 miles, including the installation of traffic signals, mast poles, directional sign lighting, bridge lighting, GORE lighting, and all aspects of the CommuterLink advanced traffic-management system (ATMS).
Ryan Cowley, Traffic and Infrastructure Division Manager for Hunt, said the biggest challenge of I-15 CORE was simply the sheer amount of materials it required.
“We do this kind of work all the time, but we’ve never done it on this kind of scale,” said Cowley. “It’s a little overwhelming at first. The first step in eating an elephant is taking the first bite. It’s an economy of scale equation in the end.”

The entire corridor includes state-of-the-art lighting, ATMS systems, and high mast poles that range from 100 to 150 ft tall. Hunt installed 152 high mast poles, which required the foundation in some cases to be 40 ft below grade and placed within rebar cages and concrete.
Hunt also installed nearly 48,000 ft of loop detectors (if stretched end to end), 1.5 million linear ft of total wire, and more than 1,300 lighting fixtures. n

Special thanks to UDOT’s Nile Easton, John Gleason, and Catherine Higgins for information regarding this project, along with Leigh Dethman of Salt Lake-based Intrepid Agency.
I-15 Utah County
Corridor Expansion
Cost: $1.1 billion (construction contract); $1.725 billion (total)
Start/Complete: January 2010/December 2012 (35 months)
GC: Provo River Constructors (joint-venture between Fluor Corp., Ames Construction, Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction, Wadsworth Brothers Construction)

Lead Engineering
Consultant: HDR, Inc.; Fluor
Main Sub-Consultants: Michael Baker Jr., Jacobs Engineering
(10 other key sub-consultants)
Subcontractors: Over 30 Subcontractors

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