- Company: W.W. Clyde & Co.
- Industry: Transportation
- Location: Pocatello, Idaho
- Expected Completion Date: December 23, 2015
- Project Website
The South Valley Connector project is a new transportation route that connects Bannock Highway to South 5th Avenue. Beginning at Bannock Highway, the roadway is on an elevated platform across a former floodplain and sewage lagoon until the Portnuef River levee is reached, where the alignment switches to a 430-foot two span bridge that crosses over the Portneuf River
and associated levees, six Union Pacific Railroad rail lines and South 2nd Avenue, then touches down on a basalt lava flow outcropping.
Once located on the bluff overlooking the valley, the roadway profile crosses under existing Interstate 15 with two overpass bridges. The roadway then resurfaces and connects to South 5th Avenue at a new traffic signal located one-half mile south of the I-15 interchange.
To achieve the interstate crossing, the project includes twin interstate structures to span over the
new local roadway, including construction crossovers to manage traffic staging. In addition to the linear alignment, the project has a button-hook connection from the new roadway down to South 2nd Avenue, just north of the Portnuef River, which
provides access to Ross Park. Greenway trails extend from end-to-end with a connection to the AMI/Kirkham trail system.
This project was designed with both a functional and aesthetic component. Functionally, this project improves mobility for residents traveling to the city center or neighboring City of Chubbuck. Often, drivers would get delayed at the railroad crossing
where they could wait for thirty minutes or more for slow moving trains to enter the train yard. This project improved safety by eliminating the at-grade crossing, as well as removed a structurally deficient bridge over the Portnuef River.
Aesthetically, the design sought to complement the surrounding native features. The walls around the railroad bridge are textured and colored to match surrounding rock. The bridge also has a fabricated fence to provide safety, in addition to adding an aesthetic element to the structure. The pier has flared and chamfered columns which add an artistic element to the bridge. The welded wire walls at the I-15 bridges utilize native crushed basalt rock. The basalt walls surrounding the roadway, which were drilled and blasted, add a natural beauty to the site location.
What impact does this project have on America?
In October 1968, five men stood in a grassy field south of Pocatello, Idaho. They represented the city and county, and on that cloudy day they announced to the public that the City of Pocatello had decided this field would serve as a tentative location for a new ‘cutoff’ road to connect the South Valley area of Pocatello. Forty-seven years later on December 23, 2015, a grander version
of that original ‘cutoff’ road dream was finally opened to the public as South Valley Road.
It’s not often that this type of transportation project takes nearly five decades of planning to bring to fruition. The project was full of difficulties, obstacles and challenges that required additional planning, compromise and innovation to complete. But, if those five men who stood on that field in 1968 could see the realization of their vision, they would be proud of the hundreds of people who kept their plans alive. Thanks to that vision and thousands of man-hours, the South Valley area of Pocatello will never be the same.
Safety For Our Citizens
The City of Pocatello’s rapid rate of growth in the1960’s was causing transportation issues— especially in the South Valley area. The biggest challenge was getting from the south part of town to the city center. Two routes were available, but one route required taking an old wooden bridge over the Portneuf River, going through an at-grade railroad crossing next to a busy Union
Pacific Railroad yard, and dodging young families recreating in Ross Park. The other route was long and required traveling a heavily congested route along Bannock Highway. In addition to the traffic problems, many citizens that lived in the South
Valley area complained of the long response times from emergency personnel.
Despite the poor travel options, funding a project to connect the South Valley area to the city was always beyond the city’s ability. A new route required over a mile of new roadway and several large bridges over railroads, rivers, and the interstate. Several options were considered butthey were all too expensive. For many years the city struggled to find a solution.
In 1995, a double fatality occurred at the at-grade railroad crossing. Local schoolteacher, Julie Bybee, and her 9-year old son, Tyler, were in their car when a Union Pacific Railroad freight train struck it. Julie saw the first train and waited for it to pass, but amidst the many busy lines of track and lack of guard arms she didn’t see another train approaching from the opposite direction.
There were residents who live in the South Valley Area used this crossing daily, so the tragic accident was the catalyst that got the project back to the forefront. The city started planning, securing funding sources, and started the alternatives evaluation process.
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
The South Valley Connector was designed to be completed in one season. At the onset, WWC felt this was an aggressive but achievable schedule, given the necessary resources. During construction several changes threatened to derail the schedule.
One of the first steps in the construction of the project presented itself as a challenge. The piles for Bridge Abutment 1 on UPRR/Portneuf river bridge were nearly twice as long as anticipated. This required a quick order of additional piles,
and due to the additional length, the piles required field welding. However, this problem at the abutment now seems minor compared to the additional challenges that lay ahead in the project.One of the greatest challenges encountered on the project was associated with the northbound I-15 Bridge Abutment 1. The plan called for the abutment to be constructed on top of a rock ledge. However, when the area was excavated there were cracks and fissures throughout the foundation rock. Due to the state of the rock, there was a change of conditions and the abutment required a redesign. To further complicate matters, this issue
also affected the critical path, so time was of the essence. Rather than bringing the job to a halt WWC, ITD, City of Pocatello, and HDR worked as true partners. Possible solutions were brainstormed, priced, and evaluated based on price, schedule, aesthetics, and functionality. A solution was selected which resulted in a cost savings from the initial design. With FHWA approval, ITD
contributed approximately $230,000 for the bridge change order. While addressing the change of conditions issue, the walls around the I-15 bridges were changed from a paneled wall to a wire wall. Rock from the excavation was crushed and used as the facing rock within the wire wall. This helps the wall to blend into the natural surroundings. In addition, the use of the wire walls
allowed for a seamless transition to the blasted rock surface.
ITD gave authorization to proceed with the work while WWC looked or ways to accelerate their schedule. Because all parties worked conjointly, a solution was quickly obtained and implemented making it possible to maintain a one year schedule, rather than the initial estimates that the job would have to be delayed into a second season.
Additional challenges also presented themselves over the course of the project. The 430-foot, 2-span bridge was to be built to span over 2nd Ave, six sets of railroad tracks, the Portneuf River, and a pedestrian trail. As construction began on the bridge it was quickly discovered that the railroad’s power and communication lines which had been buried to avoid conflict with the bridge had been placed directly in conflict with the pier foundation. Since this item was identified early, WWC worked with ITD and the railroad to produce a plan which allowed the lines to be relocated prior to excavation, thereby avoiding a scheduling delay.
The majority of the excavation consisted of hard rock which required blasting. Since the South Valley Road needed to be constructed underneath I-15, blasting operations were required adjacent to the interstate. WWC subcontracted the blasting work to Dan Lafferty Inc. based on their expertise and track record. Blast plans were developed to ensure that the integrity of I-15 was not compromised. Due to the level of effort given to this portion of the project, not even a single rock landed on I-15 and there was no need for any repairs to the roadway. Even more impressive however was the traffic plan that WWC implemented to ensure the safety of the traveling public. The plan included rolling slow
downs, blocking of ramps, and follow vehicles to ensure the area was clear. At the onset ITD was concerned with how it would affect the traffic on I-15 and set restrictions on when WWC would be able to implement the plan. After the first blast, ITD was so impressed by how the plan was implemented, that all restrictions were removed and WWC was given the green light going forward.
Change orders extended the completion date to January 18. The city and state had expressly requested their desire for the project to be complete by the Christmas holiday, so the construction team partnered together to find ways to complete the project within the original schedule. The solution included paving being completed prior to bridges by constructing the abutment
sleeper slabs prior to setting girders, allowing the temperature sensitive item to be completed earlier than normal. Sequencing was modified to ensure that critical work was completed first and crews were increased to further the work. Ultimately, the
solution was successful and the road was opened on December 23, 2015.
To keep the public up-to-date on construction progress, the City of Pocatello posted newsletters and schedule updates to their website. City officials took time to present at Idaho State University and civic organizations to provide detailed account of the ongoing construction activities. The public involvement team hired a local firm to capture drone videos to track the construction progress and the footage was uploaded to the Internet for all Pocatello residents to track project progress. The drone videos received more views than all other projects combined. The photo below is a link to the drone video
“The Connector project was a beneficial project to both UPRR and the city for the improved safety and convenience by eliminating the at-grade crossing at Cheyenne. Everybody worked together really well during all phases of the project. The project was a fine example of UPRR, the city, ITD, the consultant, and the contractor all
working together for a great project.” ~ Bill Ince, Manager – Industry & Public
Projects, Union Pacific Railroad
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
The project’s contractor, W.W. Clyde & Co. (WWC) prides itself on its safety culture, and this project was no exception. In the entire 50,000 man-hours worked, there were zero recordable injuries on the project. To achieve this level of safety, project management encouraged and implemented a program where everyone was responsible for their own safety as well as the safety of those around them. No matter the job role or title, anyone could correct an unsafe condition. If the project manager stepped out of his truck without safety glasses, the laborer would point it out and corrections were made.
Safety programs on this project included daily TRACK meetings where the team ‘Thinks’ through the task, ‘Recognizes’ the hazards, ‘Assesses’ the risks, ‘Controls’ the hazards, and ‘Keeps’ safety first in all tasks. The TRACK program was supplemented by bi-weekly Toolbox Trainings and monthly mass safety meetings, which often included lunch. Craft employees could earn up to $20 per month in Clyde Safety Bucks for the implementation of these safety programs. Superintendents and the Project Manager would often give out Clyde Safety Bucks (which could be used as cash at several retail locations) at random to recognize observed safe behaviors.
In addition, WWC implemented a HELP (Hazard Elimination and Loss Prevention) program where employees were encouraged to identify hazards and propose solutions. This helped workers to be more highly engaged and aware while working on the jobsite. Project management regularly reviewed the suggestions and the best ones were selected and implemented. The individuals submitting such ideas were rewarded with a prize.
The project team made every attempt to remind workers of the role they play in protecting themselves, their peers and the community. During Safety Week, workers were encouraged to bring in a picture of why they choose to be safe at work—many were pictures of family members. WWC managers collected, laminated and attached a clip to each photo. They were then worn on the safety vest of each employee as a continual reminder of why they were safe at work.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
The South Valley Connector project was built using fully automated GPS machine control. iPads were utilized in the field which contained all of the plans, specifications, form designs, as well as quantity and tracking of time. This enabled the team to have all the information they needed at the push of a button.
The center pier of the railroad bridge has three columns which flare out into pier cap and in addition they also have filleted edges. This created a challenge to form this intricate shape. To achieve the desired aesthetic look, WWC worked with ACH Foam Technologies, a company that manufacturers foam typically used in light weight fills. The foam had not been used as a forming system before but together WWC and ACH came up with a plan to create the desired shape in the foam, which WWC then shored and supported to create the final product.