Newberg Dundee Bypass Provides Long-Overdue Relief for the Corridor
We warn our children not to play in the street, yet Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently encouraged local residents to come and "Play on the Bypass".
As a way of celebrating the near completion of phase one of a construction project known as the Newberg Dundee Bypass, which is located in the Northwest part of Oregon (about an hour south of Portland), ODOT hosted an event in September which drew nearly 1,500 people. The Saturday morning event included a 5K run/walk that drew close to 300 people. ODOT provided water and a shuttle busses to transport people that walked too far and discovered they were now miles from their car. ODOT and some of our consultants manned information stations to explain the design and talk about the construction. Tony Snyder, a Project Manager for ODOT says, "It was a very successful event, and we received a lot of positive feedback."
The bypass officially opened with a ribbon cutting held last month. The event marks the completion of the first phase of the project, which turns an 11-mile bypass into a four-lane expressway with two lanes running in each direction. This is one of four phases as ODOT broke up the project to spread out the costs associated with the construction, which were prohibitive. The first phase involved completing a 4-mile expressway with one travel lane in each direction.
The project will have a major impact on the area, and local commuters will feel it right away. It's expected the bypass should improve livability and overall traffic flow in the surrounding communities. A traffic modeling estimate predicted that phase one of the project alone, which began in the summer of 2014, would reduce traffic in the downtown areas by around 30 percent. Snyder says, "I expect that 75 to 80 percent of the truck traffic will use the bypass."
Snyder is in charge of hiring consulting firms to either design project bid documents, environmental studies, or provide construction management services. While ODOT has an internal staff that does these tasks, the volume of work exceeds internal capacity. According to Snyder, an in-house team designed the Newberg Dundee Bypass with considerable augmentation by consulting firms for particular disciplines.
While the project is being completed on schedule, ODOT had until the end of 2018 to build Phase one, the bypass was 30 years or more in the making. It was determined in the 1980s that a bypass was needed due to increased congestion. However, there was a lack of funding and the problem went unsolved. Another hold up to the project was vocal opposition.
"Opponents to any particular route were vocal, politically connected, and persistent," says Snyder. "Producing the NEPA documents to obtain permits and purchasing right of way through neighborhoods were much more difficult than the actual design of the construction plans and the construction of the projects themselves." Kelly Amador was the overall manager in charge of the design and most of the designers worked on the various construction bid sets, which made continuity easier.
Construction Process and Budget
As one would expect from a construction such as this one, machines used included multiple cranes, pile drivers, drilled shafts, various excavators, and dozers. Snyder says one unique aspect of the construction is that, "it was almost entirely a "stake-less" construction job." Several of the roadway contractors used machine control for their construction. The dozer blades, excavators, and rollers tie into computer models to set the grades and control compaction passes. Inspectors and surveyors used field tablets to access the models to verify the construction was per plan.
ODOT managed to stay within its budget for the design and construction of the project. "ODOT Construction has made it a priority to track your expenditures and stay within the approved construction authorization, so ODOT project managers are diligent and pay attention to budget, and change orders," says Snyder.
Another reason ODOT was able to stay within budget was because a statement of work was set during design, and no major changes were necessary to accomplish the project purpose. However, Snyder says, surprises did arise. One such surprise was a gas utility line that ODOT thought was to be moved by the gas company at no cost turned out to be reimbursable, so ODOT had to pay over $1 million to get it moved.
ODOT also made use of a 140 existing reinforced concrete girders that were surplus after it had to stop work and redesign another project with multiple bridges when huge deep ancient slides were found on another project.
"The bridge designers designed bridges to use these existing beams and saved about $1 million of cost on several structures. One of the contractors used a beam launcher to place beams instead of building a temp bridge," says Snyder.
Public Input and Communications
While completing the construction, ODOT and its contractors tried to minimize the inconvenience to the public in Dundee and Newberg. The residents showed great patience and cooperation. Work was done at the end of an airport, so closures of the runway had to be arranged while cranes were being used. The airport was closed in the mornings but opened each afternoon. This procedure went on for almost a month.
In a complicated construction project such as the Newberg Dundee Bypass, communication between various players can be challenging. ODOT hired a public relations firm to create and manage a project website. The site provides overarching public outreach and public information to be consistent across the four construction projects.
Phase one of the project included more than 10 bridges and overpasses. On those structures that will by highly visible ODOT included design enhancements, such as artistic elements, that reflect the area's surrounding natural landscape. Public opinion was sought out in regards to the design of visual elements. A corridor theme, Meandering River and Rolling Hills, was designed that was applied, as possible, to bridges along the Bypass to help maintain a consistent look and feel.
With the bypass nearly complete, the public is eagerly awaiting its opening. Snyder says, "Most think that it will be a big improvement to their daily commute, reduce truck traffic in the downtown areas, and provide long overdue relief for the corridor." A better commute that is also attractive - no wonder the people are excited for completion of the Newberg Dundee Bypass.