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Crews Give Series of Houston Highways New Look

Tue February 21, 2023 - West Edition #5
Irwin Rapoport – CEG Correspondent


Through a series of four projects, Granite and JB James Construction LLC are in the process of upgrading SH 288  to improve connectivity on the south side of the Houston metro area to the Texas Medical Center. Crews utilize a GOMACO GP3 slip form paver for this portion of the project.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.)
Through a series of four projects, Granite and JB James Construction LLC are in the process of upgrading SH 288 to improve connectivity on the south side of the Houston metro area to the Texas Medical Center. Crews utilize a GOMACO GP3 slip form paver for this portion of the project. (Photo courtesy of Granite.)
Through a series of four projects, Granite and JB James Construction LLC are in the process of upgrading SH 288  to improve connectivity on the south side of the Houston metro area to the Texas Medical Center. Crews utilize a GOMACO GP3 slip form paver for this portion of the project.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) The project consists of building a new overpass along the highway, frontage roads and four main lanes to improve access into Houston for the communities using County Road 48.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) Part of the project involved the demoliton of the existing CR56 Meridiana Parkway Bridge.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) Work on the overpasses are under way with drilled shafts and foundations being installed at CR 57, CR 56 and CR 64. All the beams will be precast concrete. All other aspects will be cast-in-place.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) This is the first project that Granite has constructed in the Houston area.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) Granite will work with approximately 250,000 cu. yds. for embankments and another 50,000 cu. yds. during excavation.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.) Granite rents equipment from several companies in the Houston area, such as Doggett for John Deere, Mustang CAT, United Rentals, H&E Equipment and HERC Rentals.
(Photo courtesy of Granite.)

As part of the ongoing effort to improve the State Highway 288 corridor in the Houston Metro Area, the Texas Department of Transportation awarded a $40 million contract to Granite Construction in July 2022 that will improve connectivity on the south side of the Houston metro area and access to the Texas Medical Center.

This contract is the first in a series of four projects to improve the SH 288 corridor, all of which are within the Brazoria County limits: one at At Rodeo Palms Boulevard; one at Iowa Colony Boulevard; one at Cedar Rapids Parkway, Meridiana Parkway, Davenport Parkway; and another at Dubuque Parkway and CR 60.

These four projects were let in summer 2022. Granite secured three and JB James Construction LLC was awarded one.

"This project will reduce congestion on SH 288 and will improve the daily lives of commuters in the Houston metro area," said Granite Project Executive Domingo Gonzalez.

After winning its first contract, Granite was awarded two adjacent projects.

The first phase covers 1 mi. of SH 288. It consists of building a new overpass along the highway, frontage roads and four main lanes to improve access into Houston for the communities using County Road 48. Granite will work with approximately 250,000 cu. yds. for embankments and another 50,000 cu. yds. during excavation.

The first portion of the project, financed by Federal and State funds, began last October and is expected to be completed in early 2024. All four projects should be completed by 2025.

Aguirre & Fields designed the projects at Rodeo Palms Boulevard and Iowa Colony Boulevard, while Binkley & Barfield and CONSOR covered the others.

Construction Challenges

So far, Granite has set temporary precast traffic barriers, performed temporary striping, clearing/grubbing operations, installation of SWPPP controls, drilling of shafts, excavation and formed/poured/stripped foundations, stripping of topsoil, grading for temporary asphalt, removals of existing facilities and bridge demolition on the existing CR56 Meridiana Parkway Bridge.

Challenges are a constant element of the project.

"Working adjacent next to active traffic is always a challenge," said Gonzalez, who serves as the project manager. "Phasing of all three projects is pretty well prescribed. Granite is building new bridges over SH 288 at three intersections [CR 57, CR 64 and CR 63]. At CR 56, we're widening an existing overpass. Additionally, at two locations [CR 48 and CR 60], we're constructing two new grade separations of both SH 288 mainlines. The projects are scheduled to perform during regular business hours, with occasional operations performed at night for barrier sets, traffic switches, bridge demolition and setting of beams."

Work on the new overpasses is pressing forward.

"Drilled shafts and foundations [footings] are being installed currently at CR 57, CR 56 and CR 64," said Gonzalez. "All the beams will be precast concrete. All other aspects will be cast-in-place. Currently, from CR 48 to CR 60, there is only one overpass and that is located at CR 56 [Meridiana Parkway]. We will add lanes to this overpass. We have installed a temporary concrete barrier on the overpass to protect the area and have begun demolition of the southern limits of the overpass.

"We would not consider the work area to be ‘tight' as we have space behind the concrete barrier to operate our equipment safely, as well as store the necessary material in its appropriate areas," he added. "The area we proposed for the field office/laydown yard was strategic to serve as a central hub for the three projects and with proper layout and planning, we had the space to stand up a concrete batch plant.

"The three projects are located consecutively along SH 288," added Gonzalez. "This allows the project team to optimize the management and deployment of resources, including equipment and crews, along the project corridor. This ability to coordinate and communicate between the three projects provides opportunity for scheduling and budgeting certainty for the project teams and streamlined coordination and communication with the public for maintenance of traffic operations."

So far, no soil, water or utility issues have been encountered.

This is the first time that Granite has worked in the Houston area.

"New relationships are being created as Granite hasn't worked with this TxDOT area office in the past," said Gonzalez. "Thus far, relations are good and we are looking forward to working with them."

Vital Equipment

For paving, Granite is utilizing a GOMACO 500 rubber-tracked placer, a GOMACO 2600 placer/spreader, a GOMACO GP3 slip form paver, a GOMACO TC5600 texture/cure machine and an ERIE Strayer MC-11C batch plant.

Clearing and grubbing is being conducted for the frontage road operations.

"The roads are continuously reinforced concrete paving over 1 inch," said Gonzalez. "AC Bondbreaker over 6-inch cement-treated base over 10-inch lime-treated subgrade. At CR 48, grading operations have started for the northbound frontage road and its associated on/off ramps."

On CR 63 and CR 63 areas, Granite has begun grading operations for shoulder widenings, temporary traffic switches and installation of temporary drainage."

For the grading and drainage operations, Granite is using John Deere 700 dozers, John Deere 210 to 350 sized excavators and Cat 140 motor graders.

For the construction of the four main lanes to improve access into Houston via County Road 48, working adjacent to traffic is an ever-present challenge, with safety being a constant concern for the crews. The same equipment being used for the paving at other work zones is being used here.

For all three projects, approximately 7 mi. of embankments are being constructed.

Work on the CR 48 project is under way and the current schedule shows completion in April 2024. For Dubuque, the completion date is January 2025 and for Cedar Rapids, May 2025.

Granite's project team is united.

"There are different levels of experience, expertise and knowledge amongst the leadership team in Houston," said Gonzalez. "They do a great job in collaborating efforts to deliver the best possible solution, strategy, and development plans."

As the project progresses, the Granite and subcontractor work force will increase in size. Local and regional subcontractors are being brought in.

With work still at the beginning stage, amounts of excavated and demolished materials and new materials have not been finalized.

Gonzalez noted that 350,000 cu. yds. of on-site excavation will be used for embankment on the project and that 70,000 tons of asphalt millings will be recycled and reused/treated for base material.

More equipment is being brought on-site as operations increase in size and scope.

"The normal wear and tear on equipment could be cutting edges on dozers wearing out and teeth on excavator buckets wearing out and needing to be replaced," said Gonzalez. "These repairs could be done in a matter of an hour or less pending material availability [cutting edges, bucket teeth]. Documentation, communication and inventory would be the keys to a successful maintenance program on the various pieces of equipment we have on-site. Having an understanding of what equipment needs to be serviced and when keeps the equipment moving.

"We have an on-site mechanic to perform repairs on the Granite owned assets," he added. "The rented pieces of equipment will be serviced through each rental company."

Having all three projects adjacent to each other permits Granite crews to be more efficient and productive.

Granite is renting equipment from several companies in the Houston area, such as Doggett for John Deere, Mustang CAT, United Rentals, H&E Equipment and HERC Rentals.

"The equipment suppliers are a crucial part of the project success as they will need to deliver necessary equipment in a timely manner when called upon," said Gonzalez. "We believe the key to good relationships with suppliers is communication — keeping them in the loop and up-to-date on the project. The team did a great job during the preconstruction phase of the project creating an equipment schedule that we were able to share with the suppliers to help us meet our deadlines by having equipment available."

More Work On SH 288

Granite's additional SH 288 projects, worth $107 million, were awarded last year on Sept. 20. One contract is centered on SH 288 at Cedar Rapids Parkway and the other at Dubuque Park. Together they cover 24 lane mi. in 6 mi. of a four lane highway. The scope of work includes the construction of five new bridges, the reconstruction and reconfiguration of entry and exit ramps approaching the new structures and new grade separations. Granite has set up a batch concrete plant to provide material for these projects.

On a daily basis, approximately 80,300 cars and trucks travel in this area.

According to a TxDOT web page, the work on SH 288 is being conducted because "the current roadway features two to four general purpose lanes in each direction separated by a grassy median."

The proposed improvements include the construction of toll lanes within the existing grassy median, direct-connector improvements at Interstate Highway 610 and at Beltway 8, new overpasses at select existing at-grade intersections and improved access to the Texas Medical Center.

Planning for the work, which goes back to 2007, brought together TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, which conducted a study of the corridor and its needs.

TxDOT is constantly monitoring the traffic management plans to minimize the impacts to the traveling public and is modifying them if needed. Thus far, everything is going according to plan.

"The city of Manvel and city of Iowa Colony have passed ordinances to reduce the speed within their city limits and a Commission Minute Order has been passed for rural areas within the work zone," said Danny Perez, a TxDOT public information officer of the Houston District.

The work comes on the heels of the recent completion of the Grand Parkway Project, with Granite teams ready for a seamless transition to the work on SH 288. The construction traverses Harris and Brazoria counties between Houston and Freeport.

"The project provides a vital route for commuters and freight and commercial trucking; and serves as a hurricane evacuation route," said Perez. "It also addresses continuous growth in the area and improves access and connectivity."

"The strong collaboration between our operating and estimating teams was critical to bid day success," said Gonzalez. "These adjacent projects are also a chance to continue our successful partnership with the local TxDOT teams on delivering the infrastructure that people need."




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