- Company: Fay, an i+iconUSA Company
- Industry: Transportation
- Location: Somerset, Pennsylvania
- Expected Completion Date: October 31, 2016
It’s not every day that a construction company has the opportunity to help create a new 11-mile highway. This mass excavation (13M cy) project, the first of three phases, included drainage, and preparation for six new bridges. To move the approximately 13,000,000 cy of earth, as much as 50,000 cy had to be moved in a single day. One example was Buffalo Creek where, the earth was raised 140 ft. on one side of Buffalo Creek and lowered 120 ft. on the other side to accommodate for a bridge over the creek and a local roadway. Drainage systems were installed along the entire 11 miles. Due to the massive size of the project, coordination with over 30 key agencies (government, utilities, railroads, and local community) was needed.
Due to the size of the project, it was broken into six zones:
o Zone 1: Relocation of Pony Farm Road, Construction of the Meyersdale Bridge Interchange, new bridge over Pine Hill (approximately 500 feet long with architectural treatment), and 6M cy excavation
o Zone 2: Relocation of Fogletown and Crossroad School Road, embankment structures for Buffalo Creek and Swamp Creek Bridges, 3M cy of excavation
o Zone 3: Excavation and embankments for roadway
o Zone 4: Embankments for Mud Pike Bridge
o Zone 5: Excavation, grading and embankments between Mud Pike and Walters Mill Road
o Zone 6: Connection to existing 219 interchange, embankment placement for future Walter Mill Bridge (phase 2)
What impact does this project have on America?
This important transportation project was in the making for more than 50 years. Initially proposed in 1957, the project finally came to fruition and began in 2013 after state and federal politicians worked for decades to secure the funding to make it possible. This new highway, Somerset-Meyersdale Route 219, will be a part of the proposed Continental 1 Corridor, a 1,500-mile direct route from Toronto to Miami.
PennDOT’s goal for this new corridor is to boost the local economy and attract more people to the area. This began with the boost to the local economy from this project alone, and will extend beyond all three phases of the project when better access is available to this area. Fay sought out local businesses for the provision of a variety of numerous supplies needed by our project team, patronizing nearly 100 local businesses. Additionally, the project was a boon for the service industry as well. Workers on the project were regularly taking advantage of the local restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other businesses while on the site.
The project also provided opportunity for local residents looking for work. On average, Fay utilized more than 150 local workers daily on the massive project site spanning 11 miles. Approximately 80% of the employees were local to the area, living in Somerset County. Nearly all (98.9%) of the workers on this important project were from the Appalachian Region. Fay also contributed excess dirt and rock to help the community level farmland in the area. In addition, once the full project has been completed, there is the obvious transportation benefit to the community.
The full-scale (all three phases) project will ultimately result in a new four-lane, 11-mile highway, and six new bridge structures, giving the area much needed infrastructure upgrades.
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
Challenges occurred immediately as our team was met with a fast track start time. After the contract was awarded, we were mobilized for production in less than one month and our team moved over 700,000 cy of earth material in less than three months to meet the first milestone date.
One of the toughest challenges of a project spanning a geographic distance of 11 miles is that of coordination and communication. Managing more than 150 daily workers on average working on the site, overseeing numerous subcontractors, and coordinating with more than 30 key agencies, leading a project of this magnitude was not an easy task. The project management staff not only provided oversight to our subcontractors, but ensured compliance with our safety and quality standards and plans. This involved closely coordinating with a total of 33 subcontractors, including those for blasting, electrical, paving, steel fabrication and erection, concrete furnishing and erection, signage, barriers, painting, underdrainage piping, and seeding and mulching, among other thing. This challenge was successfully met through partnering with the client, PennDOT, and their engineer, SAI Consulting.
Perhaps the largest challenge was that this project involved staggering volume totals not typically seen. The sheer amount of earth being moved (over 13 million cy in total) required many personnel and pieces of equipment. As a visualization of that enormity, this volume would require approximately 1,300,000 tri-axle truck loads.
With so much happening at once, managing the wide variety of simultaneous work was at times difficult. As earthwork was performed around the clock, other workers demolished and widened an existing bridge and installed hundreds of feet of pipe each week. In all, Fay will have moved the 13 million cy of earth in less than two years, constructed a dual span bridge and widened another, and installed over 11 miles of drainage pipe across the entire 4-lane highway.
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
Since the site covered a large amount of previously undeveloped territory, there were also numerous environmental concerns. Fay partnered with PADEP and the Somerset County Conservation District to ensure regulatory compliance. In addition, we worked closely with PennDOT and The EADS Group, which served as the environmental supervisory group onsite, to address any concerns that we found.
Along those lines, there are numerous protected wildlife species to protect while working. Fay partnered with key agencies including the US Fish & Wildlife Service, PA Fish & Boat Commission, and the PA Game Commission to ensure the wellness and protection of wildlife species.
Despite the massive amount of people needed on this project, it is important to note that Fay’s safety standards played a part in ensuring accidents were not happening on the site. Fay applied rigorous safety standards and invested heavily in training to ensure that workers were able to perform their jobs efficiently and safely. 539,000 man-hours were successfully logged without a single lost time injury.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
Our team’s biggest innovative measure came early, as Fay immediately found a way to cut costs for PennDOT. The original contract included an item for a reinforced soil slope, which had a lump sum cost of $7.4M. Fay, however, found a way to eliminate the need for the slope entirely, saving the client millions of dollars. Fay developed a value engineering concept to alter a proposed roadway alignment for a distance of a little more than a mile. This change required the approval of The Federal Highway Administration and after reviewing the request, they concurred that our proposed alignment shift had no additional significant impacts. With their approval, Fay was able to eliminate the need for the slope, which resulted in a total savings of $9,072,118 to the client – approximately 8% of the total contract. In addition to the significant cost savings, other benefits of the proposed concept included a large reduction in excavation, reduction of natural resources impacts, improved constructability, and the elimination of future maintenance costs associated with the soil slope that was initially proposed.
Fay utilized numerous pieces of technology, including 3D modeling to analyze quantities and ensure grade/slope accuracy, and GPS to improve grading productions and efficiency. Through a third-party vendor, drones are being utilized to verify and assist with some of the final as-built conditions of the project, as well as to remotely view the site, take photos, and to generate weekly progress reports. This helps us analyze and ensure quantities, grade & slope accuracy. Use of drones are particularly helpful with gathering data on some of the high elevated slope conditions we have at the project. This helped the project manager and the rest of our team to successfully perform their duties while ensuring that the project remained on track for completion. All Fay field personnel used iPads to execute an accessible and organized document control system for the project. iPads were used to have the latest drawings in the hands of those building the job, utilizing several software programs including Bluebeam Vue, and AutoCAD ldsp, Raster Pro and Civil 3D. For example, the Fay team utilized Bluebeam plan share software to provide clear, accessible, and up-to-date information to field supervision. Work documents, specifications, and plans could easily be accessed on issued tablet devices anywhere in the field. The system was user-friendly and allowed for zooming capability and seamless revision integration and notification.