Overhead view of the recently-constructed Interstate 85 Express Lanes Extension project, which was designed to improve mobility and provide more reliable trip times throughout metro Atlanta.
Did you know that Atlanta's metropolitan area is the third largest and fastest growing in the country? And not only that, its growth rate is consistently in the top five?
Now that you do, what does all of that mean? Improving the city's infrastructure is a necessity.
Atlantans know the discomfort of a daily commute. Whether they live up the street or near the highway, most motorists have to deal with the agony of gridlocked traffic several times a week.
This summer, steps were taken to reduce Atlanta's infamous traffic congestion due to the Transform 285/400 Improvement Project and the Georgia Department of Transportation Major Mobility Investment Program. They're also joined by the Atlanta Beltline Project, the Bellwood Quarry Reservoir and Green Space Project and the $6 billion overhaul of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, otherwise known as the ATL Next Project.
"Growth is the primary challenge for Atlanta," said Jeremy Howard, vice president and general manager of Ready Mix USA-Atlanta (a CEMEX USA company). "Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and the growth is expanding the greater metropolitan in all directions, especially to the north and west of the city. That growth is outpacing the infrastructure improvement efforts."
It wasn't always that way. In the late 2000s, Atlanta suffered three years of job losses. The city also was hit relatively hard by the economic downturn during the same time, but experienced a strong recovery that began in 2011. The Housing Market (HM) lost an average of 61,400 jobs each year from 2008 through 2010. From 2011 through 2015, however, the HM added an average of 61,900 jobs every year.
According to Curbed Atlanta, between 2016 and 2017, metro Atlanta packed on nearly 90,000 new residents. That brought the total population in the region to an estimated 5,884,736 people.
As for Atlanta's construction industry? That's booming too. Last year alone, 86 projects were built, renovated or rehabbed, including a new judiciary complex. It's likely the costliest building in Georgia's history with a $122 million price tag.
Many of those projects were spearheaded by C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc., a highway and heavy construction company located in Marietta, Ga. Its commitment to excellence has set C.W. Matthews apart for generations. From the most demanding construction challenges, to projects unprecedented in scope and scale, to using innovative technologies, a culture of excellence has permeated C.W. Matthews for well over a half century.
Some of their completed projects that have changed Atlanta's landscape over the past decade include:
I-85 Express Lanes Extension
- The Interstate 85 Express Lanes Extension is part of a network of new optional express lanes designed to improve mobility and provide more reliable trip times throughout metro Atlanta. The project added 10 mi. of newly constructed express lanes, north of the existing I-85 express lanes, entirely in Gwinnett County; one lane in each direction on I-985 from just north of Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road.
- The express lanes feature dynamic pricing, rising as demand increases during peak travel times and falling at off-peak times, giving drivers the choice to pay to bypass congestion.
- Also included were three new bridges, 21 retaining walls and 29,000 LF of drainage piping. Additionally, the existing general-purpose travel-way received resurfacing with new asphalt paving for the entire length of the project, bringing the total asphalt tonnage for the project to 290,000.
- The project provides congestion relief for the 263,000 vehicles traveling the corridor daily.
- Construction began in July 2016 and the express lanes opened to traffic in November 2018.
- Benefits include reliable trip times for drivers and transit riders; enhancements to transportation infrastructure supporting economic development; toll-free for transit providers; registered vanpools; and carpools of three or more people.
- The total project final cost was $178 million.
- The design-build team was C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. and ARCADIS.
Transform 285/400 Improvement Project
- Construction began in February 2017 and is expected to be completed in late 2020.
- Mount Vernon Highway bridge over SR 400 will be reconstructed.
- Abernathy Road and SR 400 interchange is being reconstructed as a diverging diamond interchange (DDI).
- Peachtree Dunwoody Road bridge and the Glenridge Drive bridge over Interstate 285 will be reconstructed.
- Project is designed to help reduce traffic congestion and enhance safety in the area near the I-285/SR 400 interchange in metro Atlanta.
- It adds new flyover ramps, new collector-distributor lanes and other facilities to aid east-west travel along I-285 and north-south travel along SR 400.
- The project will improve 4.3 mi. of I-285 from west of Roswell Road to east of Ashford Dunwoody Road and 6.2 mi. along SR 400 from the Glenridge Connector to Spalding Drive.
- I-285 will be widened from eight lanes to 12 in some sections.
- North Perimeter Contractors (NPC), a subsidiary of Ferrovial Agroman US Corp, is the project developer/construction partner.
- To achieve maximum efficiency, economic benefit and cost effectiveness for the region, the Georgia DOT combined two stand-alone projects into one Design-Build-Finance (DBF), Public-Private Partnership (P3). The two original projects were I-285/SR 400 Interchange Reconstruction and SR 400 Collector-Distributor (CD) Lanes. The estimated total project cost is $800 million.
- Atlanta has been fast growing for decades now and area development has reached far beyond the scope of the Atlanta Beltway. Many corporations established their presence near beltway interchanges as opposed to downtown. This can be seen in many high-rise buildings along the northern portion of I-285 through Sandy Springs.
I-75 South Managed Express Lane
- The $176 million South Managed Express Lane project is C.W. Matthews Contracting Company's largest highway construction project.
- The scope of this design-build project was to construct 12 mi. of barrier separating reversible toll lanes starting at SR 155 in Henry County and ending at SR 138 in Clayton County.
- The first stage and vast majority of the work was to widen I-75 on the outside and push traffic onto the new outside construction, allowing room in the middle for construction of the managed lanes.
- The roadway typical section is asphalt and the scope included: constructing four bridges, seven toll plazas, extensive retaining wall and sound barrier walls and installing the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the dynamic tolling system.
- The project was opened for tolling in January 2017 and completed in June 2017.
Runway 8L/26R Removal and Replacement
- The general scope of work under this contract was the removal and replacement of partial areas of TW B3 and TW B11 due to pavement failure caused by ASR (alkali silicate reaction).
- The project also included removing and replacing portions of Taxiways E and F along with the throat to Ramp 2 North. The most critical portion of the project was removing and replacing the majority of RW 8L/26R and was required to be completed in 29 days (Sept. 15 to Oct.16, 2014).
- The contract duration required work around the clock on a 7-day per week schedule.
- Work included all new lighting systems, subgrade repairs, underdrain repairs and total new pavements markings for the runway and taxiways. This called for mobilizing a considerable portion of labor and equipment. More than 300 trucks were utilized in the pavement and CTB (cement treated base) removal.
- The work was completed one day ahead of schedule.
Building a Gateway From the City to the World
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, once again set new standards for airline transportation worldwide. The successful completion and opening of the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal in May 2012 marked yet another milestone in the proud history of this airport and the people of Atlanta.
- Construction of the Terminal Roadways complex was completed ahead of schedule and within budget.
The city's transformation hasn't been limited to its roadways. Roughly 2,400 apartments and condos are either under construction or recently completed. Another 1,400 are proposed to house future Atlantans. Approximately 1,300 hotel rooms and hundreds of stories of offices also are in the pipeline.
- A long-abandoned midcentury office tower, seen by hundreds-of-thousands of commuters daily, could be transformed into 107 residences. Known as "The Peach" for its distinctive rooftop adornment, the building is being overhauled by local firm Smith Dalia.
- Work is well underway on a tiny sliver of land behind the SCAD facility on Peachtree Street. Plans call for a 14-story, upscale dorm to house nearly 600 students in about 100 units and be open in time for the 2020 school year.
- Two of the most northernly additions recently constructed include the Hilton-branded, 176-key Canopy Midtown hotel and the adjoining Ascent Midtown residential tower — both pieces of the same mixed-use venture on West Peachtree Street was completed in 2018. The taller, 27-story residential tower with 328 units also was completed that year.
- After years of proposals and speculation, construction was restarted on a 19-story hotel designed by Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Associates. If built as previously announced, the Hampton Inn & Suites would feature 169 rooms. A fall 2019 debut is expected.
- Site work blasted off a year ago for Midtown's most ambitious new-construction proposal. Developers have promised that floors would start rising this fall; but the latest news regarding 182-condo No. 2 Opus Place is that the lower 17 floors are planned to house office space. Vertical construction kicked off in early 2019 with a possible 2021 completion.
- Lennar Multifamily Communities brought a 27-story tower to the piping-hot area near Piedmont Park. Having just topped out on 13th Street, between Juniper Street and Piedmont Avenue, the tower offers 308 units atop seven stories of parking.
- Developed as part of Icon Midtown, the Whole Foods isn't your typical grocery. The three-story supermarket includes a brewpub, restaurants and a cooking school. Construction was supposed to have wrapped in the first quarter of 2018.
- Buckhead of the Great Recession was marred by widespread vacancies and stalled projects — most notably the sad quagmire that was the failed Streets of Buckhead concept. But things have changed. As of 2017, the Buckhead development map showed 33 currently under construction or recently proposed projects in Atlanta's most exclusive district.
So, what's the next big infrastructure project for metropolitan Atlanta?
"Centennial Yards is a $5 billion project that consists of apartments, offices, retail and hotel space in 40 acres currently referred to as ‘The Gulch,'" Howard said. "This piece of land sits on the south side of downtown and adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The area has been starved for investment and development for decades. It's expected to become a major hub of commercial and residential activity. The project is currently in the early planning and design stages." CEG