October 2016


Volkert : Renewing Urban Infrastructure


Renewing urban infrastructure, both to replace aging facilities and to improve their functionality, aesthetics, and context sensitivity is an increasing priority for states, counties, and municipalities. The bridges along Interstate 59/20 that pass through the Central Business District of Birmingham, Alabama, are an excellent example of this kind of infrastructure renewal project.


  Existing I 59/20 Interchanges.


  Volkert's redesigned proposed interchanges.

The bridges were constructed more than 40 years ago and were originally designed to accommodate 80,000 vehicles per day. Today, the stretch of interstate has the highest rate of traffic flow in Ala., carrying more than twice the number of vehicles it was intended to accommodate. Consequently, the vital infrastructure has become functionally obsolete and must be replaced in the interest of public safety and to ease the flow of commerce and traffic through Birmingham’s CBD.

The Alabama Department of Transportation has turned to Volkert, Inc. for both Design and Construction Engineering and Inspection Services for assistance in providing a solution. ALDOT and Volkert have designed the project with distinct phases.

Phase 1 is a series of bridge widenings along I-65, just south of the interchange. Phase 2 consists of 14 new bridges, two bridge removals, seven bridge widenings, along with 16 retaining walls. In addition to the bridge construction, the project also involves work items for grade, drain, base, pave, striping, signals, and lighting. It is an all-encompassing project and is one of the largest projects in ALDOT’s history.

“The biggest challenge facing the project team is meeting the project deadlines while working in such a densely populated urban setting,” said Wes Nelson, senior project manager of the construction phase. “The contract includes a very aggressive incentive/disincentive clause. Volkert’s team looks to help the contractor and ALDOT by utilizing a new Submittal Exchange Software, tracking scheduling with Primavera 6, and utilizing a new web-based, app-driven software created to fit ALDOT’s program and make the transmittal of project documentation a much less cumbersome action.

“The technology we are implementing is great, but it won’t replace hard work and proper communication,” Nelson said. “Those ideals are the foundation of any successful project.”

Phase 3, the largest of the projects, is scheduled to let in August 2016. Estimated to eclipse the cost of phase 2, the project will replace the 6,600-foot bridge through the heart of the CBD with a new segmental bridge, along with the replacing of the structures just east at the Carraway Blvd. and Red Mountain Expressway interchange. Volkert’s project team also will perform the CEI on the project.

Upon completion of phase 3, the final project will include paving and striping throughout the interchange. “The end result of the construction will see a new, more effective interchange and interstate system through downtown Birmingham,” Nelson said. “The project eliminates dangerous weaving patterns and improves access points throughout the system, effectively improving safety and raising the system’s level of service.”

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