Design-build greenfield roadway is a model for community-contractor collaboration
To accommodate significant growth in the Salt Lake Valley, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) envisioned development of a 35-mile freeway called the Mountain View Corridor to link I-80 in Salt Lake with SR-73 in Utah County, providing commuters and residents an alternative to the heavily traveled I-15. After completion of the initial segment, UDOT in February 2016 engaged the joint venture team of Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Company and Staker Parsons Companies, with Michael Baker International as the lead designer, for the design and build of the second segment, which included 2.5 miles of greenfield roadway.
Even before formal project launch, UDOT outlined several requirements that it knew could be challenging for the design-build team. First, since the Mountain View Corridor bisects residential and commercial neighborhoods in West Valley City — neighborhoods that include both Hunter High School and Hillside Elementary School — the design-build needed to allow residents of Utah’s second-largest city to continue their accustomed walking, driving, and shopping patterns while prioritizing pedestrian and driver safety.
In addition, while the corridor is a new road, it is an interim step in the ultimate development of a freeway and, as such, still had to include intersections with traffic lights. Thus, the team needed to construct the road so that it could be converted relatively easily to a freeway in the future.
With these requirements serving as the guide, the team determined to implement a plan that was transparent, included resident input, and caused minimal disruptions to the lives of West Valley residents and motorists.
Prioritizing community input and participation
Two key design elements — mainline bridges and pedestrian bridges — helped preserve the integrity of West Valley neighborhoods. The mainline bridges — 14 in all — are vital in carrying the Mountain View Corridor over neighborhood cross-streets instead of barreling through them. Because Hunter High School abuts the roadway, a bridge was added at the school’s location to provide safer access for students.
As constructed, the corridor includes a bridge for almost every 1,000 feet of roadway; the bridges are so close together that there was insufficient room to return the road to existing grade. The corridor runs about 25 feet average above grade, providing motorists with a spectacular view of the valley. Because of this, retaining walls became a vital component of the build. The team had more than 1 million cubic yards of soil to move and were able to reuse it all for the project — a savings for UDOT, since no additional soil had to be purchased or trucked to construction sites.
While the neighborhood-friendly technical elements were important to the success of the project, the concerted outreach and interaction efforts with residents may have proven even more critical. The work on the corridor intruded on residents’ customary walking routes, and in some cases, intersection upgrades put crews in close proximity to residential homes. For those reasons, a public engagement campaign was implemented to solicit community input and participation with the project. This endeavor proved fruitful as a number of suggestions offered by residents were implemented into the final design.
For example, parents were concerned that the relocation and restoration of utility connections and roadway construction might impede the safety and access of students at Hunter High School. To keep residents apprised of the project schedule, the team distributed fliers in the schools and appeared at several school assemblies. To minimize disruptions, the bulk of utility and adjacent roadway work was executed during the summer, mitigating impacts to the Hunter High School students.
UDOT supported the community-centric approach. Early in the project, it established a Community Resolution Board (CRB) — consisting of parents, business owners, and other West Valley residents — to help shape the project. The team collaborated with the CRB in many ways, including transporting board members to construction sites once a quarter so they could monitor progress and raise any questions or concerns. This involvement helped engage the CRB as community representatives, who in turn created social media channels to share project information and updates with fellow residents.
To further maintain the integrity of the community, a network of seven pedestrian bridges was designed and constructed so residents could use the new multi-use trail constructed as part of the project unthreatened by vehicular traffic. The pedestrian bridges and multi-use trail were linked to a 27-mile network called the Utah and Salt Lake Canal Trail that traverses the entire valley.
The community is also home to the 20,000-seat USANA Amphitheater, a popular concert venue. As the trail runs adjacent to the amphitheater, the team regraded the slopes to provide an easier walk between the amphitheater and trail. With these measures, the community gained a new amenity that already has proved quite functional and popular.
Minimal future modifications
The second key requirement from UDOT was that Mountain View Corridor could be seamlessly — and cost effectively — upgraded to the freeway configuration for the future phase.
The design was future-proof so that today’s intersections can be converted to interchanges for the freeway. To facilitate that upgrade, the team designed the future interchange ramps to be the current intersection roadway. Then in the future, the new interchange and bridge can simply be “dropped in.”
For vehicular bridges, the design paid considerable attention to girder spacing and layout, optimizing the girder spacing to accommodate future bridge widening for the freeway. Now, when UDOT widens the bridges, the girder spacing will continue evenly with minimal bridge deck reconstruction. Again, the need for minimal modifications will save time and money later.
A template for collaboration
All members of the design-build team had previous experience with projects where community participation was paramount. For the Mountain View Corridor, however, the team wanted to go beyond outreach and awareness sessions to facilitate more active community involvement. Inviting residents and business owners to project sites was a key for transforming them from bystanders to project advocates. When they saw with their own eyes what was explained in meetings, it enhanced the team’s credibility and went a long way to establishing mutual trust. As newly transformed project advocates, they could convey their first-hand observations to neighbors who couldn’t visit the project site on their own. Strong word-of-mouth communication as well as engagement on personal and the CRB’s social media channels helped broaden the community’s understanding of the project.
As part of the team’s agreement with UDOT, a portion of incentive payments were tied to a community survey about their satisfaction with the overall design and build. West Valley residents were asked to grade the team in each of six areas. To be eligible for full incentive premiums, the team needed to average a 95 percent approval rating across the six areas. Because of the stellar public engagement efforts as well as the high-quality design-build product, the team earned the necessary high marks by West Valley residents.
The project was also a win for UDOT, the design-build team, and the West Valley. This achievement was recognized in the American Council of Engineering Companies Utah Engineering Excellence Awards competition, where the project won a Merit Award in the Transportation category.
Perhaps most importantly, this segment of the Mountain View Corridor project provided a template for community-contractor collaboration that can be adopted for other initiatives.
J. DARREN BURTON, P.E., is senior project engineer for Michael Baker International. Bryce Jaynes serves as project manager for Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Company.
The NW 33 Innovation Corridor Council of Governments selected Michael Baker International for a $1 million contract to provide program management and technical oversight for implementation of connected vehicle technologies along a 35-mile section of U.S. Route 33 between and within the City of Dublin, Ohio, and the City of Marysville near Columbus, Ohio.
Michael Baker will lead the program to install connected vehicle roadside devices and smart traffic signals, equip 1,200 vehicles with connected vehicle technology, and develop a network to manage the data and overall system. More than 50,000 vehicles travel daily on the corridor’s mix of local, arterial and collector streets, and multi-lane divided highway ramps, providing fertile research opportunities to create real-world testing conditions for connected vehicle technologies.
The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor is unique in its concentration of automotive manufacturing and technology employment centers and connects two globally renowned nodes of automotive research — Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) and The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR). The project also connects major new smart mobility initiatives in the City of Columbus’ Smart Columbus project, a $40 million grant award by U.S. Department of Transportation and federal research initiatives performed at TRC.
“The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor will offer a unique opportunity for Michael Baker to lead the deployment and testing of smart vehicle technology in various developed environments and roadway types as We Make a Difference in driving this technological advancement to the forefront of the transportation industry,” said Lori Duguid, project manager and office manager in Michael Baker’s Columbus office.
Michael Baker and subconsultant Alten-Cresttek will assist the project sponsors — the Cities of Dublin and Marysville, Union County, Ohio Department of Transportation, and DriveOhio — and the project partners — Honda, Battelle, TRC, and the Ohio State University College of Engineering — to use insights gained from the project to improve safety and create opportunities for economic development throughout the corridor, while showcasing the approach as a model for inter-governmental collaboration.
Michael Baker conducted the first of two partnering workshops in Columbus to discuss key project elements in early February. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2020.