Despite recent gridlock surrounding the issue in Congress, the majority of Americans agree: rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is vital to economic recovery and health in a post-COVID world. Public investment in this area acts as a “bridge” between a workforce that needs jobs and an economy that needs better streets, highways, and public transit. As a contractor with deep experience in these areas, Sundt continues to prove itself as a bridge builder in more ways than one.
In the last decade, Sundt has built nearly 150 bridges total across various projects, with over half of these going over roadways. Four of our recent wins from the Engineering News Record (ENR) 2020 Best Project Awards went to transportation projects, showing Sundt’s versatility and quality across states. Three won the Best Highway/Bridge project, for the Southwest, Mountain States, and Texas and Louisiana regions respectively, which included bridges over waterways, railroads and major thoroughfares.
In Tucson, Sundt and a joint-venture partner won Best Highway/Bridge for the Interstate 10 (I-10), Ina Road interchange. The CMAR project included replacing an at-grade crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), which had been causing major delays during peak traffic hours. The team rebuilt and elevated the interchange over the railroad, widening both I-10 and Ina Road, as well as replacing the existing Santa Cruz River Bridge.
The team also worked with the designer and UPRR engineers to provide a system that maximized operational efficiency, safety, and cost. Other innovations helped to lessen environmental impact, including our repurposing of asphalt and concrete rubble on site for grade stabilization, as well as setting up bat boxes under the Santa Cruz bridge to house Mexican free-tailed bats. Whether selected based on qualifications, or for our ability to price competitively as with the current I-10 and Ruthrauff Road interchange project, Sundt has experience in handling bridge projects with distinct needs and challenges.
Worth nearly $160 million, GO 10 was the largest design-bid-build project to date for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) El Paso district. The job involved 29 new bridges and four bridge widenings. Several existing bridges and roads had to be carefully demolished and removed first. All were adjacent to live traffic and under live power lines. Also, setting up cranes in areas such as flood control arroyos during heavy rain and flash flooding was just one of the many technical safety aspects we had to coordinate during the project.
The four-year, 5.75-mile reconstruction improved traffic flow in a high-volume corridor, which averaged 120,000 vehicles per day. New collector-distributor (CD) lanes now allow nonstop traffic to pass through smoothly, while drivers entering and exiting can do so unencumbered, reducing the risk of accidents. The CD lanes function like access roads, but traffic moves faster because drivers aren’t interrupted by unnecessary entrance and exit points. When accidents do occur, the CD lanes give first responders better access and more room to address these events.
TxDOT also had certain aesthetic goals that required creative thinking and collaboration. As in past projects like the award-winning Cordes Junction interchange completed in 2013, our team and design partners were able to work together to find a solution. GO 10 included more than 30 retaining walls (201,000 square feet), with many in highly visible places. Instead of the original design’s plain MSE walls, TxDOT wanted to add a decorative element that was more pleasing to the eye and that represented El Paso’s surroundings—and do this within budget. HNTB’s landscape architects created a mountain and sunset theme, and our team was able to value-engineer and even avoid other costs to add this element within budget.
As new development continues along the Wasatch Front, multiple infrastructure projects have been under way to support the area’s growing population. These include the I-215 and Redwood Road interchange in North Salt Lake, which Sundt completely rebuilt for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).
The project had four major components: first, the resurfacing of Redwood Road from 500 S to Center Street and Recreation Way to County line; second, the I-215 roadway; third, the full widening and reconstruction of Redwood Road; and fourth and finally, the new bridge and Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI). The DDI temporarily routes vehicles to the left side of the road, allowing for higher volumes of traffic to cross, enter, or exit the freeway. Drivers have less wait time and fewer chances for collisions. Building this brand-new interchange alongside live traffic required detailed phasing work, literally down to the inch.
Building Successful Projects, Building Capable People
Bridge projects connect our communities. They enable regional and national travel and trade. With state budgets being impacted by the pandemic, including shortfalls in gas tax revenues, it is now more important than ever for transportation departments to entrust their projects to the right people. Bridge builders of choice understand collaboration and alternative delivery methods. They provide predictable outcomes, especially when it comes to cost, quality, and safety. Most of all, they recognize and respond to the surrounding community and end users’ needs.
Doing these things well on a consistent basis is not a matter of luck, according to Sundt Senior Vice President Cade Rowley. It comes down to building people, as well as bridges. “It’s not, ‘Oh, we just had a good crew on this or that project,'” said Cade. “We have a company culture of investing in our people. We focus on broadening and developing their skills. And that’s how we achieve consistent results across regions.”