The ability to minimize community impacts during the construction of new roadways and bridges is becoming more important to clients – and an important distinguisher for contractors. Two Sundt experts explored this topic in an article featured in this month’s issue of Roads & Bridges magazine. Click here for a link to the online version of the article, or download the pdf.
Sundt is pleased to be performing another transportation construction project for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The Interstate 10 Enhancements Project includes $7.6 million in improvements to a busy, 1.3-mile stretch of I-10 in El Paso. Sundt’s scope of work includes aesthetic enhancements to bridges, walls, and concrete barriers, plus upgrades to lighting, landscape and irrigation, and hardscape. The work began last month and is scheduled to be complete in October of this year.
“This project’s biggest challenge will be working right in the middle of interstate traffic, and the tight 180-day schedule,” says Sundt Area Manager Fred Stone. “We have to be very careful in our planning, especially with the long-lead items. TxDOT pushed the start date back to allow us to gather information that will make the work go more smoothly, and right away we discovered that some of the alignments weren’t correct. Finding that out ahead of time is a huge help.”
To see some of Sundt’s other transportation construction projects, both in Texas and in other states, click here.
Last week a group of experts came together on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show to discuss the challenges posed by our nation’s aging infrastructure. With more than 60,000 bridges in the U.S. in a state of serious decline, the big question on everyone minds is how to pay for the necessary replacements and repairs.
Mike Hoover, Sundt’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, agrees with many transportation construction and policy experts: the creation of a highway reauthorization bill is critical. Federal funding supports more than half of states’ transportation construction, but the existing bill, MAP-21, expires on September 30. At the same time, the highway trust fund, which uses gas taxes to fund many federal highway programs in every state, will be depleted by the end of August if Congress doesn’t act.
What are the obstacles to the passage of a new bill? Can public-private partnerships provide a funding solution? Are there other creative funding mechanisms being proposed and considered? Click here to listen to the show to and find out what the panelists (listed below) and callers had to say.
Robert Puentes, senior fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution
Chris Edwards, economist and editor of DownsizingGovernment.org, Cato Institute
Fawn Johnson, correspondent, National Journal
Phineas Baxandall, federal budget and tax analyst, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO, International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association (IBTTA)
Walking through a construction zone where the pedestrian route is constantly changing is hard enough. Try doing it when you’re visually impaired. That’s what a group of Sundt and Stacy and Witbeck employees did on a recent afternoon to try to get a better understanding of what visually impaired pedestrians experience as they navigate their way through the light rail construction project the partnership is building in Phoenix. The Sundt/Stacy and Witbeck team is constructing a 3.2-mile addition to the existing Valley Metro Light Rail system, known as the Northwest Extension.
“There are several visually impaired people who live along the construction route, and one in particular who is very active,” says Chris Elison, Sundt field engineer. “He walks along a one-mile portion of the route several times a day for work and to meet with friends. It came to our attention that he had a couple of difficult experiences figuring out where to walk when the pedestrian walkway was re-rerouted. Sometimes it’s re-routed several times in one week. The sidewalk that’s open one day could be closed the next, and until recently we relied mainly on signage to indicate the change.”
Several members of the project team took a class that gave them an overview of the newest guidelines pertaining to “canable” rails (guides for people using canes), and then they hit the streets using canes and wearing black-out glasses. While one person tried to navigate the temporary walkway without relying on visual cues, the others studied that person’s movements to get a better understanding of the difficulties.
“It was really hard to figure out where to go; we learned a lot from the experience,” Chris explained. “The canable rail provides very important cues. Wherever it’s pointing is where the person relying on it is going to try to go. If you just have a “sidewalk closed” sign with an arrow pointing right or left, you’ve basically created nothing but a tripping hazard for the visually impaired. You have to have the rail positioned at just the right angle for them. There’s more to think through than most people realize. The investment in training was well worth it. We have a much safer project now, thanks to the new guidelines and our real-world training exercise.”
The Northwest Extension is expected to serve approximately 5,000 riders per day when it is complete. The transportation construction project is Sundt’s fourth for Valley Metro Light Rail. In 2008, Sundt/ Stacy and Witbeck completed more than half of the original 20-mile “starter” section of the transit system (Line Section 4 and Line Section 5), plus the system’s maintenance and operations facility.
Hats off to Sundt Project Manager Sherly Bonillas! Last month she received the Women in Transportation‘s (WTS) New Member of the Year Award. Sherly is currently working on one of Sundt’s major transportation construction projects in the Phoenix area: the Metro Light Rail Transit Northwest Extension, being constructed with joint venture partner Stacy and Witbeck.
The WTS New Member of the Year Award recognizes outstanding achievements by a new member of WTS who made significant contributions to the organization during the year. Sherly was recognized for her leadership and participation in the WTS annual scholarship fundraiser, reaching out to several companies and individuals for sponsorships and donations. She also served as a mentor to female engineering students during the 2013 Transportation You initiative by working with Metro Tech High School students.
Congratulations to Sherly for being recognized as a leader in the construction industry and for women in transportation!