Published on March 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine0
Completion of Record $3 Billion, 3-Year UDOT Program
Heavy/Highway 2013 Outlook; Mountain View Corridor
With major projects like I-15 CORE, Mountain View Corridor and Dixie Drive having wrapped up, Utah heavy/highway contractors will likely have to expand their geographic reach in order to keep people employed and revenue numbers from slipping dramatically.
Coming off a record three-year, $3 billion-plus program, Carlos Braceras admits that 2013 will likely be a challenging year for Utah-based heavy/highway contractors.
Braceras, Deputy Director for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), has allowed himself to exhale after helping the Department oversee the completion of several major – even historic – highway projects in 2012, including the $1.1 billion I-15 Utah County Corridor Expansion (CORE), the $245 million Mountain View Corridor in Southwest Salt Lake County, and the $58 million I-15 Dixie Drive Interchange in Southern Utah. It is unlikely UDOT will see that whirlwind of activity for some time, but Braceras believes Utah’s heavy/highway market will ultimately rebound after 2013.
“(2013) will probably be one of our slower years in the past five of six years,” said Braceras. “From 2014 to 2017 we’ll see a steady increase in construction lettings, including some larger three-digit projects. I see a sustained and robust program as we move forward, but 2013 will be a slow construction year.”
It will also mark a significant transition year for the Department, with the recent announcement of Executive Director John Njord’s retirement after 12 years at UDOT’s helm. Njord plans to step aside in June once his replacement has been found. UDOT declined further comment on Njord’s pending retirement at this time. (Utah Construction & Design will include a feature story on Njord’s legacy in a later issue this summer).
Braceras said UDOT has roughly 180 projects, mostly preservation and rehabilitation jobs, on the docket this year and that the Utah Transportation Commission last April programmed about $700 million of capacity work over the next three years. He’s also confident Utah’s legislature will continue to view transportation – both new projects and infrastructure upgrades/renovations – as a major item of importance to residents of the state.
“It’s hard to read the tea leaves with 104 members of legislature, but those in leadership who I’ve worked with for many years absolutely understand how important transportation is to what they’re trying to achieve in Utah,” said Braceras. “It’s good for citizens, but also good for attracting new companies to the state.”
Need to Expand Geographic Reach
Contractors across the board realize 2013 is going to a difficult year. Company leaders do not like to lay employees off for any reason, but in order to maintain profitability and stay steady for the future requires some difficult decisions to be made.
“The challenge we face is trying to secure enough construction work and material supply to replace that large work that is now completed,” said Scott Parson, President of Staker Parson Companies, Ogden. “It’s sobering and very concerning as we look into 2013 given what appears to be a lack of large publicly-funded projects. I’m appreciative of the investment the State of Utah has made in infrastructure. The message I’d like to send is we have an unusual opportunity with still low and competitive construction costs and historically low bonding costs…so states, counties and cities should take advantage of those opportunities.”
“We’re going to have to stretch our boundaries and look for work in places we haven’t looked in the past,” said Wilford Clyde, CEO of Clyde Companies, Orem. “We need to make sure we’re leaner and meaner so we can be cost competitive. Prices have been extremely tight for several years. We’re bidding jobs we typically wouldn’t be bidding.”
Guy Wadsworth, President of Wadsworth Brothers Construction, has had his company broaden its geographic reach in order to maintain its revenue stream. The 22-year-old Draper-based firm completed an approximate $20 million project in 2012 in North Dakota for NDDOT, for example, and continues to pursue work for other regional DOTs.
“We’d prefer not to bid on projects that far away, but you do whatever you can to find work,” said Wadsworth. “We prefer to work in Utah, but there aren’t a lot of good opportunities (in state) right now.”
“Obviously every contractor has different approaches,” said Braceras. “The construction business from UDOT is cyclical; I’ve been here 26 years and that’s the way it’s been. Successful contractors diversify the work they do and expand their geographic reach. We’ve seen some of our contractors seek work in places they’ve never been before. It’s a difficult business for contractors to respond to changing programs. We had an aggressive bonding program that front-loaded our cash flow, and now we’re paying back those bonds. In ‘14, ‘15, ‘16 that positive cash flow starts coming back in a positive way. At some point, I think we’ll have a program that is the envy of the nation.”
“The heavy/highway market will drop off in 2013, but it will come back,” added Rich Thorn, President/CEO of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Utah. “2012 was a banner year for a lot of heavy/highway contractors, but with I-15 CORE and Mountain View Corridor now complete, there aren’t many big jobs out there currently. Contractors are optimistic by nature and our members in the highway market will continue to work harder and work smarter until more projects become available in the future.”
“We certainly have the flexibility in our business to deploy our resources across an eight-state network in the West, so we’ll take advantage of that,” said Parson. “But Utah is our largest single market so the downturn will likely lead to reduced employment for (2013). We’ll continue to focus on securing work in all aspects of commercial and residential construction.”
Mountain View Corridor Opens New Route for West-Side Valley Travelers
On any given year Mountain View Corridor (MVC) would have been the signature heavy/highway project in the state. At $245 million (construction cost), the 15-mile new roadway from Redwood Road at 16000 South to 5400 South is one of the most important new projects in the state, and will provide an excellent route for people traveling on the western side of the Salt Lake Valley.
The project was constructed by Copper Hills Constructors, a joint-venture between Granite Construction of North Salt Lake, Kiewit of American Fork, and W.W. Clyde Construction of Springville.
That said, MVC was somewhat overshadowed by I-15 CORE, although that doesn’t mitigate the success or significance of the project.
“There is a lot of satisfaction with the completion of this project,” said Teri Newell, UDOT Project Director on MVC. “We had great partnering with all contractors and consultants and couldn’t have asked for a better result. We made partnering a goal every day; if you have an issue, you talk directly to the parties involved.”
“It’s always challenging getting everyone from different companies together to pull together as a team,” said Bret Barton, Project Manager for Granite Construction. “But it made the project successful. We ran it as one company.”
Barton said each company brought a unique element of expertise to the table. Granite led the charge on the hot-mix asphalt paving, Kiewit was focused on concrete paving, W.W. Clyde was responsible for aggregate crushing. Key subcontractors included Cache Valley Electric of Salt Lake, which did all electrical and ATMS system installations, Whitaker Construction of Brigham City, which handled the bulk of the utility work, and ACME Construction of West Jordan, which did concrete flat work, sidewalks, curb and gutter.
“Together with UDOT we came up with the best construction plan and a schedule that made the best sense to meet their goals and our goals,” said Barton. “We had some potential delays we were able to work through using the partnering process.”
The 15 miles of roadway includes six miles of concrete pavement from Old Bingham Highway to 5400 South and nine miles of asphalt on the southern portion. The project’s next phase will extend north from 5400 South to 4100 South, with that money being available to start design in July 2014, according to Newell.
A key aspect of the project was securing a significant portion of land at the south end of the valley that was donated by three different land owners, in exchange for having the project completed by the end of 2012. Newell said that accounted for a savings of $45 million. The project started in April 2010 and was officially completed by December 2012.
Initial construction had two outside lanes built in each direction, with full MVC build-out to include a 35-mile, fully functional highway that connects I-80 in Salt Lake County to I-15 in Lehi.
400 employees at peak construction
Eight pairs of single-span concrete girder bridges and one pair of two-span steel girder bridges
335,250 tons of asphalt mix – equivalent to 3.32 fully loaded Nimitz class aircraft carriers
6-million cubic yards of dirt moved – enough to fill 1,568 Olympic sized swimming pools
150,000 linear feet of new drainage
325,000 sq yds of concrete – enough to cover 51 football stadiums
3.85 million lbs of rebar and over 35 million lbs of concrete
Included with the mainline construction was the reconstruction of 12 major city streets that cross or are adjacent to MVC
Mountain View Corridor
Cost: $245 million (construction cost)
GC: Copper Hills Constructors (joint-venture between Granite Construction, Kiewit, W.W. Clyde)
Design Consultants: H.W. Lochner; Michael Baker Jr.; URS Inc.; Horrocks Engineering
Key Subs: Cache Valley Electric; Whitaker Construction; B Jackson Construction; ACME Construction
I-15 Dixie Drive Interchange
Aids So. Utah Growth
A key UDOT project in Southern Utah in 2012 was the I-15 Dixie Drive Interchange in St. George. This $82 million ($58.5 million construction contract) CM/GC project included six new bridges, four triple span structures over the Santa Clara River, a single span structure over Convention Center Drive, and a double span, hour glass shaped SPI (Single Point Interchange) over Interstate 15. The project also included the relocation/modification of nine holes on the Southgate Golf Course, 3.2 miles of new/rebuilt roadway, 70,000 tons of asphalt, two large cast-in-place concrete box culverts, a 7,200 square foot shotcrete retaining wall, and an 82,000 square foot scour protection sheet pile wall.
The Dixie Drive Interchange project incorporated more than 18,000 lineal ft of precast concrete barrier, 55,000 sq ft of precast concrete MSE wall panels, 19,250 sq ft of precast concrete deck panels, over 10,000 lineal ft of prestressed concrete girders, and 19,000 cu yds of cast-in-place concrete. To maintain traffic flow, the new mainline structures were split into three phases. The unique challenge was that the new structures were to be built in the exact same location as the old structures. WCC started by constructing half of the southbound structure, then shifted northbound traffic to the new southbound structure, allowing crews to complete the entire northbound structure.
Dixie Drive Interchange
Cost: $58.5 million (construction cost)
GC: Washington County
between Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction and Granite Construction)
Engineer: Horrocks Engineering