PennDOT Rapidly Replacing 500-Plus Structurally Deficient Bridges Through P3 Initiative
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation owns and maintains over 20,000 bridges, one of the largest quantities among all the states. More than 4,000 of these bridges are classified as structurally deficient. These numbers can make bridge repair and replacement a daunting, slow process - but a new private-public partnership known as P3 is allowing PennDOT to fix hundreds of these bridges, many of them in rural areas of the state, in just a few years' time.
Pennsylvania's P3 initiative, known as the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, is designed to address the structurally deficient bridges more quickly and efficiently, while achieving significant savings for taxpayers and minimize the impact on traffic. The initiative, made possible by the P3 law which was enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2012, was approved by the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board in 2013, and Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners was selected as PennDOT's private partner in late 2014.
Mike Bonini, PennDOT's P3 Director, says, "This is the largest, most complex P3 project in the state, a $900 million investment in transportation. It is, in fact, the largest road project in Pennsylvania history. Replacing these bridges will provide our residents with new, modern structures and allow us to remove them from our structurally deficient list.
Bonini reports that PennDOT has six goals for the project:
· Expedite the delivery of replacement bridges
- Design, build and maintain bridges using high-quality, cost-effective and sustainable technical solutions
- Design, build and maintain bridges in an environmentally sound manner that ensures the safety of the traveling public and minimizes environmental impact
- Minimize the duration of public inconvenience during construction and maintenance of bridges
- Undertake work on a whole-life management basis to ensure that bridges are handed back in a suitable condition
- Minimize the cost and funds required to design, build, finance and maintain the project
"P3 allows us to accomplish this more quickly and at less cost than traditional procurement methods, due to the use of standardized design and construction practices," Bonini explains. "This project is proceeding under a four-year time frame and scheduled for completion in 2018. Without P3, we might not be able to get to these bridges for 10 to 15 years.
"And we're generating savings for Pennsylvania's taxpayers by bundling bridges statewide into one contract and getting the advantages of economies of scale. PennDOT will be able to use these savings to address other infrastructure needs."
While the project is still ongoing at this point, Bonini estimates that the bridges included in the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project will be replaced and maintained at an average of $1.6 million each, versus $2 million each if they were completed under PennDOT's normal process.
Choosing the Bridges
Before issuing final requests for proposals for the project, PennDOT screened over 2,000 structurally deficient bridges. Says Bonini, "The good news/bad news is that there are a lot of bridges in the state which could be included in the project. We did a systematic review to identify those which were similar in size and structure, and we gained efficiencies through minimal design submissions."
He adds that multiple factors were considered, including age, length, number of lanes, and average daily traffic, as well as impact on utilities, railroads, and a wide range of potential environmental impacts. All of the bridges are relatively small - many only single-span, two-lane structures - and of similar characteristics.
The bridges are primarily crossings on smaller state highways, many in rural areas, rather than interstate bridges or large river crossings. Most of the bridges included in the program range from 40 to 75 feet in length. The replacement bridges will be constructed quickly because of standardized designs and the ability to prefabricate many of the bridge components off site, which reduces construction time in the field, as Bonini points out. The majority of the bridge projects will be finished in just a matter of weeks or months to cause minimal disruption to the motoring public. When the construction workers finish one bridge, they immediately head to another one nearby.
The bridges are clustered in two groups, one in northeastern Pennsylvania and the second in the southwest. The project will be completed in two phases, with the first involving the replacement of 87 Early Completion Bridges (ECBs), and the second including the 471 Remaining Eligible Bridges (REBs).
"We reviewed candidates for the Early Completion phase through our 11 state engineering districts," Bonini explains. "We did not want an extended design process, and started right out of the gate in 2015 with 87 bridges included in the first year. The remaining bridges must go through the design process, but all bridges are to be built by the end of 2018.
"We can change the bridges in the portfolio as needed, based on complexity and the ability to realize a short completion period."
He reports that 213 bridges are now constructed and open, 84 are under construction, 140 still planned for this year, and 120 planned for next year. "It's a very aggressive schedule, and the June to September time frame will be a "˜hot point' for the largest number of bridges to be completed in a four-month period."
An Almost 30-Year Contract
The Rapid Bridge Replacement Project was awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to the consortium of Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP). Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners will finance, design, construct and maintain the bridges for a 28-year term. PennDOT retains ownership of the bridges throughout the contract.
Bonini comments, "We went through a competitive bid process, and had interest from across the nation and the world. After requesting quotes, we generated a short list of firms. We identified PWKP as a leader in construction and maintenance, and had them submit a final request for proposal. They were ultimately chosen because of their experience in managing similar projects and their financial ability to complete the project, among other criteria."
Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners team is comprised of the Plenary Group, The Walsh Group, Granite Construction Company and HDR Engineering. Walsh and HDR maintain offices in Pennsylvania. In addition, the team includes 11 Pennsylvania-based subcontractors.
"PWKP is divided into three regions which encompass our 11 engineering districts, "Bonini explains. "Their main office is in Pittsburgh, and they also have three regional offices. Each of these regional offices has the opportunity to design, build and manage as they see fit."
One of the project requirements is for PWKP to maintain each of the 558 bridges for a term of 25 years after the bridge is constructed; then, each bridge is to be handed back to the Department in a predetermined condition, which will guarantee its continued performance once PennDOT becomes responsible again for maintaining it.
At the end of the 25-year term, an overall assessment of a bridge's condition must be rated at a seven or higher. A structurally deficient bridge is rated as a four or below. Typically, a bridge constructed with a 100-year design life rates as about a six after 25 years.
As Bonini points out, PennDOT personnel will continue to perform operations and routine maintenance on the bridges, such as snow plowing, debris removal, mowing and similar activities. If properly designed and constructed, a bridge should not require significant maintenance during the first 25 to 35 years, he explains. However, the contract serves as a warranty to ensure the bridges are constructed to achieve the lowest life-cycle cost of ownership.
"The P3 tool has given PennDOT the ability to deliver innovative solutions to a wide range of projects, and to accelerate the delivery and safety of our bridges," Bonini states. "Across the state, we're improving mobility and creating private sector jobs.
"Realizing the goals of the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project will also result in safer travel and increased value to the residents of Pennsylvania."