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Shoring System Overcomes Obstacles at Storm Tunnels

By: Kevin Juliano - Special to CEG

In July of 2013, BT Construction (BTC) of Henderson, Colo., was awarded the High Street Outfall Project for Denver. The project consisted of side-by-side 96 in. (244 cm) diameter storm tunnels under the Union Pacific Rail Yard, each 400 ft. (122 m) long.
To meet the requirements of constructing both the tunnels, the jacking pit excavation had to have minimum inside dimensions of 40 ft. (12 m) wide, 48 ft. (14.6 m) long, and 28 ft. (8.5 m) deep. Furthermore, the bottom 16 ft. (4.9 m) of the excavation had to be free of any cross supports to facilitate the construction of the cast in place structure.
Crossing under 17 sets of rails with the tunnel inverts 27 ft. (8.2 m) below grade in a sandy material, BTC elected to construct the tunnels utilizing an Akkerman microtunnel machine.

In July of 2013, BT Construction (BTC) of Henderson, Colo., was awarded the High Street Outfall Project for Denver. The project consisted of side-by-side 96 in. (244 cm) diameter storm tunnels under the Union Pacific Rail Yard, each 400 ft. (122 m) long. On both sides, a Y-shaped concrete transition structure was to be constructed, tying the twin tunnels into a single box culvert.

Crossing under 17 sets of rails with the tunnel inverts 27 ft. (8.2 m) below grade in a sandy material, BTC elected to construct the tunnels utilizing an Akkerman microtunnel machine. That being decided, the first major hurdle was how to shore the jacking and receiving pits.

To meet the requirements of constructing both the tunnels, the jacking pit excavation had to have minimum inside dimensions of 40 ft. (12 m) wide, 48 ft. (14.6 m) long, and 28 ft. (8.5 m) deep. Furthermore, the bottom 16 ft. (4.9 m) of the excavation had to be free of any cross supports to facilitate the construction of the cast in place structure. Such an excavation, in the best of situations, was challenging but reasonable.

However, this excavation had one additional complexity: the front side of the pit had to be placed only 27 ft. away from the nearest railroad track, thus dramatically increasing the load rating requirements of the shoring system.

BT Construction turned to Wylaco Inc., a local representative of the GME sliderail system. Griswold Machine and Engineering, Union City, Mich., offers a full line of shoring equipment, and had partnered with Wylaco and BTC on many past projects.


In addition to the load ratings of an excavation that close to rails, one requirement of the railroad is the constant support of soil during excavation, which the sliderail system was able to accomplish. With its modular, flexible design, the system can comply with a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Installed from the top down and removed from the bottom up, the system minimizes excavation size, soil disturbances, restoration time and cost. Installation is done with low vibration, providing soil support for excavations, adjacent structures and existing utilities.

Prior to excavation, four corner posts and four additional linear posts were installed. The first of three strut carts was then installed, followed by the panels. As the excavation progressed, additional panels and strut carts were added, ensuring that the adjacent soil was supported at all times.

One last obstacle remained in the preliminary design of the shoring. The concrete transition structures were 16 ft. tall and no cross supports could conflict with the structure. In normal instances, sacrificial beams would be placed in an X on the floor of the pit prior to raising the strut carts. However, this design did not meet the required load ratings. BTC hired a structure engineer to collaborate with GME's engineers to find a solution to the problem.

In the end, concrete supports, were constructed in an X under the final grade of the structures, connecting and supporting the linear posts. This allowed the top strut cart to be removed and the bottom two raised to gain the necessary clearance for the structure. Because the bottom panel in the front wall also had to be raised for the construction of the tunnel, GME incorporated sheetpile into its design. The installation of sheetpile allowed BTC to raise the bottom panel while still supporting the excavation.

After the preliminary designs were complete, the project was thrown a curveball. Another project, adjacent to the High Street Outfall, was underway and the completion of the transition structure on the receiving side was integral to the other project's critical path. The city of Denver asked BTC and GME to come up with a plan to construct both the jacking and receiving pits at the same time, thus expediting the completion of the structure. While it was a stretch to construct one pit of that size with the available equipment, two were not feasible.

To solve the problem, BTC worked with GME and its local representative, Wylaco, to come up with a pit of slightly smaller dimensions, 40 ft. (12 m) long and 36 ft. (11 m) wide, to better utilize the available resources. Engineers also were able to design one strut cart to have the capability of being modified in the field and be used in both pits at different phases of the job.

The designs for each pit were reviewed at length by BTC and the owner. Once approved, the shoring plan drawings and calculations were submitted to the city of Denver's design engineer. Passing his review, the design was sent on to the Union Pacific for its final acceptance. With construction being so close to the railroad's yard, Union Pacific was careful to scrutinize the shoring design, ensuring that it met all the requirements of excavation. GME's final design was approved without comments.

Both pits were excavated with ease, the shoring system performing perfectly. Following the excavation, the front walls, concrete supports, and thrust walls were constructed in the jacking pit, facilitating the setup and use of the microtunnel machine.

Shoring will remain in use through spring 2014 and the project is expected to be complete July 2014.

About BT Construction

BT Construction Inc., located in Henderson, Colo., is a general contractor that is renowned throughout the construction world, having built a reputation over the past 35 years throughout the western United States.

For more information, call 303/469-0199 or visit www.btconstruction.com

About Wylaco

Supply Company

Wylaco Supply Company is Colorado's largest supplier of tools and specialty materials to professional contractors, municipalities, electricians, handymen, excavators, utilities, electrical, pipeline and individuals. With two retail locations in Colorado, it offers a complete rental department that includes a large inventory of shoring. For more information, call 800/876-2325 or visit www.wylaco.com

About GME

GME is the producers of one of the world's most complete line of trench shoring and shielding equipment. The products the company offers range from a single hydraulic shore system, trench shields, slide rail systems and hydraulic bracing systems.

For more information, call 800/248-2054 or visit www.gme-shields.com