InfraSource Adding Extra ’Swank’ to Buckhead

Tue September 25, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Matthew Willett



It’s a project that will define the area.

The first — and sometimes only — impression that visitors take is not a bridge or a building, but a streetscape. On Peachtree Road in Atlanta’s ever-swankier Buckhead district, the streetscape will be like no other in the world.

“It’s quite a visually striking project,” InfraSource Underground Construction Services General Manager George Betzner said. “The streetlights, for example, are a proprietary design that will only be installed in Buckhead for this project. We’ve also put in colored concrete sidewalks — Peachtree Beige, of course — and granite unit pavers and concrete unit pavers to frame the sidewalks.”

The $8.1 million widening and median construction project that began in March 2006 also included specialized granite curbing, underground utilities and irrigation and 36 of the one-off streetlights. The first phase of the three-phase project should be complete in late September or early October, Betzner said.

Georgia Department of Transportation District 7 Construction Engineer Mickey McGee said the project, a partnership between the DOT and the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), is aimed at bringing beauty and an improved experience to both drivers and pedestrians in the growing area that features five hotels in the project footprint.

“Basically we’re widening the existing roadway to be able to accommodate a planted median,” McGee said. “An important part of this streetscape is road improvements in addition to pedestrian area improvement from just south of the Georgia 400 underpass to just south of Piedmont Road at Maple Street.”

The streetscaping is unusual by Georgia DOT standards in that it calls for burying utilities and irrigation systems, Betzner said, but it’s unique in construction for other reasons.

“Fair warning to other contractors,” he laughed, “Bring a big saw when you come to Buckhead.”

Contractors in the future will need one in at least one spot on the 0.48-mi. (0.77 km) stretch of Peachtree.

“We’ve raised the road more than 20 in. in some areas and paved with a lot of asphalt,” he said. “The road had a dip in it and we made an even contour out of it. To date, we’ve put down 6,000 tons of asphalt and we have about 2,000 tons to go.

“You’ll never want to work in there again,” he said.

And the high levels of foot and vehicle traffic in the area only added to the project planning complexity already exacerbated by a plethora of ongoing construction projects in the area, Betzner added.

“There are six lanes of traffic there and we’ve maintained six lanes continuously — we’ve only used single-lane closures during the day, but we’ve been running day and night and had to do some multiple-lane closures at night,” he said.

Safety issues, however, have been held to a minimum.

“We haven’t had any personnel injured. We stress safety internally and we also train our subcontractors on safety so our safety program becomes their safety program,” he said.

Betzner said he brought a core of subcontractors with him from previous streetscaping work in Midtown Atlanta. Granite contractor Flintstone Paver Installations of Buford, Ga.; electrical and traffic signalization contractor Brooks-Berry-Haynie & Associates Inc. of Atlanta; pavers Stewart Bros Inc. of Atlanta; Meadow Creek Landscape Services of Atlanta; street striping and signage contractor Highway Services Inc. of Douglasville, Ga.; Hemma Concrete and Pavers of Marietta, Ga.; and storm water and drainage contractor ARI of Atlanta all worked on the project. Traffic controls were handled by U.S. Traffic Technologies of Atlanta.

Within just a few blocks, more than three other large-scale projects carry their own host of contractors.

“Also while we’ve been here, we’ve had a 50-story building going up in this project’s footprint,” Betzner said. “They’ve built a 28-story condominium complex and another 30- or 34-story mixed development project. We’ve been here a year and a half and there’s been a tremendous amount of activity, so it’s tough coordinating with all those contractors for concrete trucks moving through and steel and rebar stacked around sites. Thankfully, they’ve all been very professional. Hardin Construction [Co. Inc. of Atlanta] and Cousins [Properties of Atlanta] have been out there, as well as Regent Partners [LLC of Atlanta], who built that 50-story building [3344 Peachtree Road]. They’ve been great, as has RJ Griffin [& Company-Southeast of Atlanta].”

Though he’s got about a dozen personnel on the ground at any given time, Betzner said, with subcontractors the project has had up to 40 people on-site several times over the last 18 months. He said he’s mainly used three Ford F650s serviced by Peach State Trucks of Atlanta, which also services InfraSource’s Sterling cement mixer truck. Thomas Concrete of Atlanta supplied the concrete.

Betzner said he’s rented equipment for the project from Rental Service Corporation of Atlanta (RSC) including a Cat backhoe with a hammer attachment.

“We’ve used a Cat 302.5 excavator and we have a John Deere 320 skid steer loader and we used a Roadtec RX45 miller. My subcontractor used a Cat 315 trackhoe to do the storm water work and they also had a 430 backhoe,” Betzner said.

Yancey Bros. of Atlanta handles maintenance for the Cat equipment, he added. Equipment failures haven’t been a problem, he said, though the weather has.

“We’ve lost a dozen trees out here. It’s been good weather, great for building, but it’s been hard on the human end of production and on the landscaping it’s been brutal. We could not water those trees enough, and we’ve stopped planting until October since we got permission from the client. The combination of heat and drought and hundred-degree-plus temperatures just fried the leaves,” he said.

Factoring for deadline extensions brought on by change orders, Betzner said, construction will be completed on time and under the $8.5 million budget.

The larger Phase 2 of the three-phase project is scheduled to be let in early 2008, Betzner said, and though he said he’s looking forward to coming back to Buckhead he’ll have plenty to do in the near future.

“Now InfraSource has been awarded the contract for the next streetscape project in Midtown,” he said. “It’s also on Peachtree, just a few miles down the road.” CEG