PAVING THE WAY FORWARD
Celebrating the 2017 GPTQ Preconstruction Design Award Winners
By Joy Ugi
The Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality (GPTQ) started as a small gathering of a variety of stakeholders in the construction and engineering sectors – agencies, consultancies, construction companies and engineers included. The common goal of the group then – and now as a formal written partnership agreement between the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia (ACEC Georgia), the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Georgia Highway Contractors Association – is to build projects for the betterment of the public and safely improve existing transportation networks in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
The GPTQ’s annual Preconstruction Design Awards provide an avenue to celebrate engineers who have gone above and beyond meeting the shared goals of GPTQ through various projects across the state of Georgia. The small group of individuals who review the submitted projects and decide on finalists and winners take into consideration the project’s benefit to the public, procedures and stakeholder relationships. They also place priority on projects that have accomplished this in an exceptional way.
Michael Thomas, P.E. of Moffatt & Nichol is the GPTQ Preconstruction Design Awards Subcommittee Co-Chair. He has served on the committee for four years and says the amount of submissions in 2017 has significantly increased since four or five years ago. He credits this phenomenon to the Southeast region’s rapid growth, which has ushered in more innovative transportation options. “It’s a very exciting time right now,” says Thomas. “As the Georgia transportation market matures, the next five to ten years will see these awards not just recognize roadway improvements, but more transit, rail and multi-modal projects, as well.”
Thomas says transportation engineering can often be a forgotten and underappreciated field. It takes a lot of hard work, often behind the scenes, to complete a project, and the Preconstruction Design Awards are a statement of appreciation for that hard work. “The awards are one way to look at each other and recognize we are working really hard – engineers, designers, all the groups that make it happen,” says Thomas. “Success begets success.”
GRAND AWARD WINNER
Winner: Georgia Department of Transportation, Office of Roadway Design
Winning Project: State Route 400 at State Route 53 Continuous Flow Intersection
A continuous flow intersection (CFI) had never been implemented in the state of Georgia before the State Route 400 at State Route 53 intersection improvement project. In fact, the number of CFIs in the entire United States can be counted on one hand. As the first of its kind in the state, which opened in August 2017, the two-legged CFI was a reconstruction of an existing at-grade intersection in Dawson County. GDOT didn’t have to go far to find a team to implement this project; its own Office of Roadway Design (Roadway Design).
Roadway Design acted as the team lead throughout the revised concept phase, preliminary design phase, final design phase and construction phase of this project. The in-house GDOT team produced the revised concept report, preliminary construction plans, right-of-way plans and final construction plans. It also provided design services during construction and assisted with community outreach.
Sitting near the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall, the intersection of State Route 400 at State Route 53 was experiencing increased traffic, congestion and car crashes. To reduce these issues, GDOT originally planned to construct a grade-separated interchange; however, high project costs and concerns over property access and visibility made it re-think the solution. Instead, GDOT chose to implement an innovative approach: a state-of-the-art CFI.
Because of the cutting-edge nature of the project, Roadway Design spearheaded extensive public education about how the CFI would work. The team accomplished this by creating detailed displays and traffic model simulations. Because of these efforts, the CFI received unanimous support from the public. And none of it would have happened without strong teamwork and communication.
“It’s a team win,” says Fletcher Miller, P.E., Engineer of Record on the project, about being awarded the Grand Prize. “It took a lot of people at GDOT to develop the plans and even construct the project; it took us as a team working to get to this point.”
This teamwork was crucial in meeting the goals of the project: GDOT wanted to enhance the intersection of State Route 400 at State Route 53 with an innovative, but practical solution that balanced community needs. Roadway Design executed this by providing a design that improved intersection capacity, reduced congestion and slashed the number of expected car crashes. In addition, the CFI led to significant cost savings, little-to-no property and business impacts and a favorable public reaction.
“The State Route 400 at State Route 53 Continuous Flow Intersection was chosen as the Grand Prize Winner because of its innovation and successful delivery,” says Thomas. “This project won because it carries a lot of impact to the industry and to the public. It’s an extremely innovative project.”
Perhaps its greatest impact will be seen in the future, as it now serves as a model for future application in the state of Georgia.
CATEGORY 1: INNOVATIVE SOLUTION TO A DESIGN PROBLEM/BEST USE OF NEW PRODUCTS
Winner: Infrastructure Consulting & Engineering, PLLC
Winning Project: Interstate 285 at Riverside Drive Ramps
Replacing an existing interchange can be expensive, time-consuming and full of safety and operational challenges. This is exactly what Infrastructure Consulting & Engineering, PLLC (ICE) faced when it accepted the Interstate 285 Riverside Drive Ramps project from GDOT. The Interstate 285 at Riverside Drive Ramps project is more than just the first location in Georgia where dual roundabouts were installed at ramp terminals of a diamond interchange – it also included maintenance that extended the life of the bridge and added a Chattahoochee River Bank-themed landscape.
The ICE team developed and delivered the final construction plans, utility coordination services and right-of-way acquisition services for the project. It was no easy task, though. In fact, there were a few overwhelming challenges. Primarily, the constraints of the project required complex geometry and extensive turning path analysis. In addition, with the residential location of the project, the team had to ensure construction didn’t interfere with the flow of traffic. One of the most significant challenges was scheduling for right-of-way acquisition. A process that normally takes over nine months to complete, it took only seven months due to the diligence of the ICE team.
The success of the Interstate 285 at Riverside Drive Ramps project is far-reaching. GDOT can now maximize the number of interchange improvements that use this configuration and stay within budget thanks to the low implementation cost.
CATEGORY 2: PLANNING AND DESIGN OF AN ALTERNATIVE MODE TRANSPORTATION FACILITY
Winner: W. R. Toole Engineers, Inc.
Winning Project: Augusta Canal Multi-Use Trail Phase IIIB and IIIC
When Congress designated the Augusta Canal as a National Heritage Area in 1998, the Augusta Canal Authority went to work immediately building a master development plan including a 13-mile trail system connecting the area to downtown Augusta. W. R. Toole Engineers, Inc. was the prime consultant for the Augusta Canal Multi-Use Trail Phase IIIB and IIIC project, which covered a three-mile section of the proposed trail system. The firm handled project management, lead design, permitting, and construction administration and inspection.
Because the trail location is situated in the floodplain of the Savannah River, W. R. Toole faced the challenges of a difficult construction environment including poor soil conditions, flooding, construction areas inaccessible by land and a major elevation difference. To address these issues, the firm obtained U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and United States Coast Guard permits to take care of flood elevations. The team also created two industrial tail races extending from the canal to the river so lightweight construction equipment could access the area.
Through the Augusta Canal Multi-Use Trail Phase IIIB and IIIC project, W. R. Toole provided Columbia County residents not just two new innovatively designed bridges, but a trail system that connects a formerly inaccessible area to downtown Augusta. And, they did all this while maintaining a tight budget, staying within the limits of a short construction schedule and preserving historical landmarks.
CATEGORY 3: NEPA, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, PRESERVATION, RESTORATION AND/OR ENHANCEMENT
Winner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – SHEP Project Delivery Team
Winning Project: The CSS Georgia Recovery – Raising the Wreck
The $973 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is one of the most important infrastructure projects in the United States. In order to complete the enormous project, it was necessary to remove the CSS Georgia from the edge of the shipping channel so that Inner Harbor dredging could begin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) took on the CSS Georgia Recovery – Raising the Wreck project for GDOT and was primarily responsible for handling the recovery and removal of remaining sections of the ship.
Not only was it important for USACE to remove the remaining parts of the CSS Georgia from the shipping channel, but it was also necessary to keep all removed parts intact for historical preservation. USACE was successful in addressing both these issues by recovering the remaining case mate sections, the propeller and the steam power cylinders without damaging them. Once archeologists documented the case mate sections, they were reburied in the Back River away from the shipping channel. In addition, more than 30,000 small artifacts recovered from the CSS Georgia were transported to Texas A&M Conservation Research Laboratory for curation and reconstruction of the vessel.
USACE completed the CSS Georgia Recovery – Raising the Wreck project on schedule and within budget for GDOT. It is one of the most thorough archeological and historic preservation efforts undertaken in the state of Georgia.
CATEGORY 4: CONTEXT SENSITIVE PLANNING AND DESIGN, INCLUDING PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PLAN
Winner: Moreland Altobelli Associates, Inc.
Winning Project: Reconstruction of Interstate 16 and Interstate 75 Interchange
At the section of Interstate 75 that bisects Interstate 16 sits the historic minority community of Pleasant Hill. To meet National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards in this area, GDOT proposed improvements through the Reconstruction of Interstate 16 and Interstate 75 Interchange project. Moreland Altobelli Associates (Moreland) took the lead on designing the project, completing environmental studies and writing the NEPA document.
Specifically, the Moreland team was tasked with relocating eight, and constructing 17, new houses. The main challenges were moving the historic homes within a reasonable cost, reaching a consensus about the finishes on noise and visual walls, designing the community center and staging the project. Moreland knew community involvement would be key in mitigating the impacts caused by the operational and safety improvements; thus, they established multiple communication channels for the project immediately. These included 50 community meetings, a project website and Facebook page, a telephone hotline, media releases, a post office box, a Citizen’s’ Advisory Committee (CAC), email newsletters, direct mailings and recordings of oral histories.
Because of the extensive mitigation efforts, Moreland reduced the project footprint, created multi-use trails and sidewalks, designed noise and visual barriers, completed construction, provided connection from Fifth Avenue to Walnut Street and created visual renderings for public review. In addition, the Moreland team successfully reduced the NEPA document level to a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” Overall, the improvement in public relations exceeded GDOT’s expectations.
CATEGORY 5: BRIDGE/STRUCTURAL DESIGN
Winning Project: Interstate 285 Multi-Use Bridge
In late 2013, the Atlanta Braves announced its relocation to SunTrust Park in Cobb County. In anticipation of the new growth and development created by the nearby, new mixed-use development – The Battery Atlanta – Cobb County Department of Transportation (Cobb County DOT) planned the Interstate 285 Multi-Use Bridge project to provide safe mobility in the area. The bridge consists of a future transit lane, planter median/buffer and a pedestrian promenade. AECOM provided project management, design and architecture services for this complex, $10 million project.
The project required striking a balance between functionality, aesthetics and cost effectiveness. AECOM created a fly-through video that was instrumental in bringing its design vision to life. Safety was also a priority in the design of the bridge. AECOM added planters to effectively separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic and suggested removable bollards to allow emergency vehicles to enter when necessary. Lighting and surveillance cameras provided an extra layer of security on the bridge, as well.
AECOM exceeded Cobb County DOT’s expectations by completing the project in time for the Atlanta Brave’s first pitch on April 14, 2017, and delivering the requested simple and elegant design. The bridge helps establish a connection between development to the north and south of the perimeter that would otherwise be cut off by Interstate 285. In addition, the connection created between The Battery Atlanta and the Galleria will encourage more multi-modal traffic to each side of the bridge and create positive economic impacts for the area’s Cumberland Community Improvement District.
CATEGORY 6: TRAFFIC SAFETY AND/OR INTERSECTION DESIGN
Winner Firm: Parsons Corporation
Winning Project: County Route 9/Gulfstream Road at County Route 1111/Robert B. Miller Road, Including Roundabouts
When GDOT recommended a road-widening project in Chatham County near the Gulfstream Aerospace Facility, Parsons Corporation’s transportation group stepped up. The improvements included two miles of intersection improvements, including roundabouts and the addition of turn lanes. Although GDOT proposed a traditional design for the County Route 9/Gulfstream Road at County Route 1111/Robert B. Miller Road, Parsons developed sustainable design enhancements that provided the desired capacity and safety improvements while remaining within budget.
This project was the first design in Georgia in 2015 with dual roundabouts along the same roadway approximately a quarter mile apart. The Parsons team provided a feasibility study that resulted in minimizing both environmental and right-of-way impacts. The team also organized peer review for the roundabout design, including the north entrance driveway, which was designed to avoid any impact to the existing railroad crossings and provide significant cost savings to the project.
Parsons designed a construction sequence that ensured traffic was not disrupted during the project, and invited all stakeholders to be involved in every stage of planning. The completed project will accommodate future traffic growth from industrial and airport activity and improve the operation of the intersection at Gulfstream Road and Robert B. Miller Road, as well as reduce the frequency and severity of crashes.
CATEGORY 7: HIGHWAY DESIGN – URBAN
Winning Project: State Route 96 Widening in Peach/Houston Counties
The culmination of nearly 10 years of planning, the State Route 96 Widening in Peach/Houston Counties widened six miles of State Route 96 from two lanes to four lanes between Peach and Houston Counties. Atkins was responsible for full survey, subsurface utility engineering (SUE), traffic analysis, concept, preliminary and final design, bridge design, value engineering study, right-of-way plans, as well as full environmental, including reevaluations and public involvement for GDOT.
Atkins faced design changes, environmental issues, local development challenges and extensive coordination needs. The team also uncovered an error in the storage capacity of an existing detention pond and redesigned it to meet standards. One of its greatest achievements for the project was acting as counsel for GDOT’s lawyers, who depended on Atkins staff’s masterful knowledge during depositions and condemnation trial testimony.
The State Route 96 Widening in Peach and Houston Counties project was crucial in improving a major truck corridor and enhancing safety. It also provided vehicles with an alternative to reach State Route 247 that avoided delays associated with train crossings. In addition, the project aided in enhancing the economic development ability of Houston County. Atkins delivered the project on time for GDOT and provided a context-sensitive design that addressed the needs and purpose of the project.
CATEGORY 8: HIGHWAY DESIGN – RURAL
Winning Project: US State Route 17 Martin Bypass
New challenges can arise at any time during a project’s planning and execution, and nothing shows that more clearly than the US State Route 17 Martin Bypass project. Arcadis managed the $45 million project to improve a 10-mile portion of State Route 17. The team performed roadway design, concept validation, traffic analysis, surveying, environmental permitting and documentation, as well as stakeholder/property owner engagement for the project.
Arcadis faced three main problems during the project. First, the new four-lane highway needed bridges and culverts at 18 stream crossings, wetlands and wildlife habitat areas. Arcadis created minimal impact designs and coordinated extensively with NEPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to solve this issue. Another problem was detours, right-of-ways and public involvement in both. Arcadis addressed this by developing an extensive detour and sequence of construction plan that minimized traffic delays for the public. Finally, discovery of the Indiana bat created new Regulatory and NEPA requirements. Responding quickly, Arcadis conducted nationwide habitat and acoustic surveys, and prevented the project from being delayed a year.
All in all, the Arcadis team exceeded GDOT’s budget and schedule expectations without compromising the safety and integrity of the project. Its thoughtful approach to right-of-way negotiations, design, stakeholder management, depth of resources, commitment to quality and dedication to its client resulted in millions of dollars in cost savings.
CATEGORY 9: DEISGN-BUILD
Winning Project: Interstate 75 South Express Lanes from State Route 155 to State Route 138
The 12.5-mile portion of Interstate 75 between Henry and Clayton Counties is travelled by more than 100,000 vehicles per day. To alleviate the overwhelming congestion on this part of the highway, GDOT’s Office of Innovative Delivery planned the Interstate 75 South Express Lanes from State Route 155 to State Route 138 project. The first of its kind in Georgia and the third in the Southeast, the $176 million two-lane, reversible toll-lane involved the widening of Interstate 75 and construction of two barrier-separated, reversible lanes.
Arcadis developed over 85 percent of the design in-house, including all of the intelligent transportation systems and electrical scope. No small feat, the team accomplished this task by conducting numerous workshops with GDOT, the State Road and Toll Authority (SRTA) and SRTA’s toll system integrator. The newness of this toll system and reversible access control system to Georgia made clear coordination and communication among stakeholders absolutely crucial, and a priority of the Arcadis team throughout the project.
By proactively identifying and working through integration challenges, Arcadis delivered the Interstate 75 South Express Lanes project four months ahead of schedule and saved GDOT over $10 million. In addition, the project received a Best Use of Technology and Innovation award at the 2017 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials America’s Transportation Awards.