US Route 69 Bridge Crossing Requires Two-State Cooperation
In July 2014, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission selected the American Bridge Company and Garver as the contractor team for the U.S. Route 69 Missouri River Bridge project. This $79 million project replaces two bridges over the Missouri River between Platte County, Missouri and Wyandotte County, Kansas. The Fairfax Bridge (southbound) was built in 1933 and the Platte Purchase Bridge (northbound) was built in 1957.
Scheduled for completion in July 2017 (with all lanes of traffic on the new bridge by December 2016), a key feature of the U.S. 69 Bridge project follows the design-build process. This is a method to deliver a project in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design-build contractor. Design-build relies on a single point of responsibility contract and is used to minimize risks for the project owner and to reduce the delivery schedule by overlapping the design and construction phases of a project. Design-build was first used by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) in 2004, with three pilot projects. The U.S. 69 Bridge Project is the seventh design-build project, with a total of 11 MoDOT projects either completed or in development.
According to Project Director Lisa Stupps, "Goals are a very important part of MoDOT's design-build process and are structured to meet the needs of each individual project. Our project goals for the Missouri River Bridge emphasized the importance of schedule, cost, durability of the bridge and safety. These principles guided us through the process of crafting our design-build contract documents, meetings with the proposers and through administration of the contract we have with our team."
One of MoDOT's requirements for large design-build projects is the integration of the contractor team, design consultant team and MoDOT staff into one project office. Co-location of MoDOT staff with contractor and consultant staff allows for easier collaboration and problem solving throughout the project. Weekly project management team meetings are focused on managing delivery of the project, addressing any issues and maintaining the goals of the project. Focus groups helped direct bridge and roadway design, utility relocations and environmental permits.
A Multi-State Project
U.S. Route 69 Bridge is the first MoDOT design-build project that crosses two states. "We worked closely with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) regarding the language in our contract documents describing the work on the Kansas side," Stupps said. Joint discussions included how each state would track costs, purchase of right of way, handle agreements with Kansas entities, provide utility relocations and clear environmental issues. An environmental assessment was finished in December 2013 just ahead of the project.
"The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is appreciative of the opportunity to team up with MoDOT and improve a major river crossing that is important to both states," said Senior Road Design Leader Kris Norton, P.E. of the Kansas Bureau of Road Design. The aging, narrow truss bridges at this location required increasingly costly and frequent repairs, for which KDOT shares with MoDOT.
"The new, wider bridge will better facilitate the ever-increasing traffic volumes and loads that cross the Missouri River between the Fairfax District in Kansas and the Riverside Community in Missouri. Both states will benefit from this new bridge that is so important to the economic vitality and sustainability of the region. While KDOT is fairly new to the design-build delivery method for projects, we are pleased with MoDOT's decision to pursue design-build for this project, which saved time and money," he shared.
Major Utility Conflicts
As part of the design-build process, over 90 potential utility conflicts were identified to be managed by each design-build proposer on this project. "It is hard enough to manage utility relocations on a design-bid-build project prior to letting a contract when you know where construction will be and what it will look like," explained Stupps. "But, it becomes even more difficult on a design-build project when you cannot tell the utility companies where the new construction will be, what the footprint of the new bridge will look like or even how the utilities will be attached to the new bridge until you let the project and begin construction."
The project team had many early discussions with the utility companies, proposing a number of what-if scenarios. This helped determine not only who paid for relocation but also who was responsible for the time it took to move the utility to aid in proposer risk. "Because the contractor understood the importance of managing the utilities on this project," Stupps said, "a utility coordinator was assigned from the very beginning to keep the relocations going."
Nine utility conduits were attached to the existing bridges - five were major gas lines, all relocating under the river. A challenge to execute, that process included both removals from the existing bridges and relocations. "With the winning team's design being in the same footprint as southbound U.S. 69 (Fairfax Bridge), the original bridge needed to be demolished before construction could begin on a new one," Stupps recalled.
Prior to letting the project, the team knew there was a high probability for this scenario. The gas company attached to the Fairfax Bridge felt it did not have the time to relocate its line nor did it want to spend the money to temporarily attach to the other bridge, so they opted to shut down the line until it could be relocated. The two gas companies located on northbound U.S. 69 (Platte Purchase Bridge) recently completed their relocation, just ahead of the existing bridge's demolition.
"There are four fiber optic companies set to be relocated to the new bridge," added Stupps, "and that effort has required ongoing communication with the utility companies and coordination with the contractor to make it fit within their schedule."
Managing Right of Way
The project right of way was purchased in both Missouri and Kansas, using a probable footprint for the new bridge. In order to define the right of way risk to the teams, dates were guaranteed that the properties would be available to them and those properties were environmentally cleared, noting any necessary right of way beyond the footprint would be their responsibility to purchase and provide environmental clearances. "We had one railroad line to work with." Stupps said. "By having early discussions with that railroad, we were able to outline exactly what the proposers would be able to do within the railroad property as well as associated costs with any permits, right of entry, insurance and flaggers that we would pass on to the contractor," she explained.
Additional challenges in the project included two different levee systems located on both north and south sides of the river. Each levee had its own board of directors who oversaw the operation of the levee and a different Army Corps of Engineers representative who reviewed submittals. Both levees were built differently, so each had different requirements for footings design, clearances over the levee access road and work allowed in their levee-critical zones.
"In order to manage the potential risk to proposers, we set up individual team meetings with each levee group for proposers to meet with the respective levee board, their engineers, and Corps of Engineer representatives to discuss potential designs and the approvals' impact," Stupps recalled. These meetings occurred during the proposal stage while trying to maintain confidentiality of the team's design, she added.
"Because this project involved two states, two cities, two counties, two levees, a railroad and a major body of water, there were over 70 environmental/construction permits to obtain," Stupps shared. Many of these could not be obtained until after the design was approved. The contractor managed the situation through one of their design subcontractors, who was responsible for tracking and managing all of the permits. "We had weekly meetings to discuss just permits and kept a running spreadsheet of status with submittals. Each had to be spelled out in the contract documents, along with who would be responsible for obtaining them and all associated costs," she said.
Keeping Traffic Moving
In the Instruction to Proposers document, MoDOT specified that at least one lane in each direction be maintained on U.S. 69 Highway at all times. How it was determined was left up to the proposers. The winning team decided to put northbound and southbound traffic head to head on the Platte Purchase Bridge. "This allowed them to demolish the Fairfax Bridge immediately and build the new bridge in close proximity to the Platte Purchase Bridge, tying back into existing alignment quickly with savings on paving and earthwork costs," noted Stupps.
The award winning contractor/design team had the shortest bridge design, which also reduced costs. The original southbound bridge was 2,595 feet long and the northbound bridge was 2,602 feet long. The total new bridge length is approximately 2,154 feet, saving nearly 450 feet of bridge length.
"MoDOT is extremely proud of our history utilizing design-build to deliver remarkable projects, including the U.S. 69 Missouri River Bridge," said David J. Simmons P.E., Project Manager and MoDOT Design Build Coordinator. "Our successes delivering these projects is the result of talented contractors and consultants who continue to innovate, collaborate, complete projects rapidly, and achieve goals that benefit everyone. At MoDOT, we are confident in pushing the boundaries on these projects because of our strong partnerships developed during the design-build process," Simmons concluded.