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Crews Withstand Tight Deadlines on Syracuse City Job

Fri April 09, 2010 - West Edition

Crews working for Geneva Rock Products are eyeing the skies above Syracuse City, Utah, waiting for winter to loosen its hold on the community south of Ogden.

Last February, Geneva Rock Products started work on a $15-million contract for the Utah State Department of Transportation (UDOT) to widen Syracuse Road from two to five lanes, two travel lanes in each direction with a center lane and dedicated bike lanes. The widened roadway will improve traffic flow in the area and improve safety for local, commuter and tourist traffic. The project was separated into two phases.

Now finished, Phase I included demolition of 20 properties.

“Right of way was a tremendous part of the project,” stated UDOT Project manager Nathan Peterson.

Although the demolition work was the most visible item of Phase I, major work on culinary water services, storm drain improvements and irrigation water lines constituted an even more significant portion of the project.

“The city wanted to upgrade their existing utilities prior to construction of the roadway, so that was [the reason for] the major push on the utility work,” said Geneva Rock Products’ manager of the project, Shane Albrecht.

Phase II began in June of 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in June 2010. It includes the remainder of utility work and road widening and paving, plus finish work such as decorative crosswalks; curbs, gutters and sidewalks; signals; landscaping and lighting.

At present, the south half of the roadway is constructed.

“We’re currently working on the north half, to install remaining underground utilities and prepping for paving, as soon as the weather breaks,” said Albrecht.

Although weather is usually a consideration on highway projects, in this case it is particularly important that the paving portion of the project go smoothly because the project timeline is already tight.

“We’ve had our share of challenges throughout the job, from the start to where we are currently,” said Albrecht.

These challenges center around several utility companies that have facilities that run through the job corridor: Rocky Mountain Power, Questar Gas, and a Qwest fiber optic vault that is costing UDOT approximately $1 million to relocate. The fiber optic relocation requires splicing at two intersections of the Syracuse Road project, at Allison Way and at 2000 West.

It’s a large undertaking, according to Albrecht.

“It’s the main fiber optic line they have through Syracuse City … there’s quite a bit of time involved in splicing the fiber.”

“Utility coordination took a lot of patience,” added Peterson. “There was a lot of advance planning and organizing to try to get the utility companies to come to the table and understand the magnitude of the project.”

Referring to the utility relocation process, Albrecht said, “We’re doing everything in our power to coordinate, encourage, pressure — whatever we can to keep them focused. But it’s largely out of our control.”

As of late February, Geneva Rock Products was still on schedule to meet its contractual completion date of June 30. It remains to be seen if utility relocation will delay the project.

On the other hand, a fairly experimental aspect of the project has gone very well. The Syracuse Road project was awarded to Geneva Rock Products as a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) contract. It’s a relatively new approach for UDOT.

“We’re testing the delivery method to see if there’s value to it,” said Peterson.

In this case the contractor is brought on during the last phase of design, allowing the contractor to provide feedback to the designers to help with the constructability of the design. Feedback during this stage serves to shorten the schedule and save on the budget. 

This isn’t the first CM/GC contract for Orem-based Geneva Rock Products, a 56-year-old company and subsidiary of Clyde Companies Inc. It is, however, Albrecht’s first run at managing a CM/GC contract.

“Our company has been involved in a few of these, but they are still relatively new to the state and the area” he said.

Having the contractor on board during the pre-construction stage allowed UDOT to save approximately $800,000 on the paving portion of the Syracuse Road project.

The original RFP called for an expensive asphalt roadway consisting of geogrid, asphalt-treated sub-base, HMA, and a bonded wearing course. Geneva Rock Products offered an alternative solution utilizing concrete pavement that not only cut costs for the client, but also increased the pavement life expectancy from 20 to 40 years.

“For the owner, it’s win-win: save money and get a longer-lasting, more durable pavement,” stated Peterson.

“Our company does both, asphalt and [concrete] pavement, so we didn’t have an agenda one way or another,” said Albrecht, who added that Geneva Rock Products’ fleet includes Blaw-Knox, Caterpillar and Gomaco pavers.

In addition to the Gomaco paver, equipment used on the Syracuse Road project included Caterpillar excavators, ranging from 305 to 330 “and all sizes in between,” according to Albrecht, plus a Caterpillar 14H grader controlled with GPS equipment. The contractor’s trucking fleet is made up primarily of Ford vehicles.

Initial concerns about noise from the paving process were addressed by choosing an Astro-turf drag texturing technique known for being one of the quietest options for concrete.

Aside from utility relocation issues, the project is apparently going well for all concerned. Peterson said that Syracuse City has been “a great partner” and Albrecht said that public response to the project has been very positive.

The community’s response to this project is probably more important to Albrecht than it might be otherwise, because he lives in Syracuse City. He explained that Syracuse Road is both the main entry to Syracuse City and the access point to Antelope Island State Park.

“This project is really at the heart of Syracuse City,” said Albrecht.

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