Crews from Massana Construction perform highway work in Amarillo.
(Massana Construction photo)
Massana Construction Inc. will be finishing a $4.9 million safety upgrade project for the Texas Department of Transportation in the city of Amarillo on August 5.
The initiative is installing four miles of cable barrier on I-40, an east-west interstate on the south side of the city; five miles of cable barrier, four miles of new guardrail and 220 ft. of concrete barrier on U.S. 87 — a highway on the north side of the city; and 1.4 miles of cable barrier.
Additional guardrails and concrete barriers will be placed on I-27, an interstate south of the city.
Massana has multiple crews working simultaneously on U.S. 87 (north-south) and I-40 (east-west).
The final tensioning of the cable barrier on I-40 began in late April, while cable barrier installation on U.S. 87 continues.
"We started on U.S. 87 first, went to I-40 2nd, and will do I-27 last." said Starr. "Every time we work, we have to shut down a lane. The lane closures are managed by Massana and we follow TXMUTCD standards and the engineered drawings. TxDOT gave us a window of time we can place the closures. For the most part they are allowing daylight closures from dawn to dusk, but for I-27 it's going to be a different deal. There are hourly rental fees for lane closures."
Crews can install roughly 1,000 ft. of cable barrier a day.
"We can trim up to 3,500 feet per-day, drill up to 175 posts a day, and pave up to 3,500 feet a day," said Starr. "That's about 1,000 feet a day."
The installation process starts with a surveyed layout, which translates the plan to horizontal (stationing) and vertical (elevation). The layout is then used to set a string line for the paver.
"A paver with a trimmer head uses the string line to cut the grade to elevation," said Starr. "We follow behind the trimmer and drill the post holes and behind that a paver, using the string line, pours the concrete. After the concrete cures, we install posts, string the cable, and then tension it to the manufacturer's tension requirements.
"It's definitely a step-by-step process," he added, "but once you've done it a time or two, it's the same process and you can start getting better at it. Once you're through the learning curve you can find tricks of the trade to be more optimized."
The cable barrier is being supplied by Gibralter Cable Barrier System.
Dustin Allen, Inc. was hired as a subcontractor to install the guardrail, which is considered to be a specialized trade that requires specialized equipment, such a as post driver which is set up for specific guardrail posts.
"They're averaging 400 feet removed and replaced in a day," said Starr. "It's a solid pace and they're doing a good job. They use their drill to pull the old posts and drive the new ones back in. They'll come in and unbolt everything first, and then pull the rail out of the way. Once the old posts are yanked out, we grade the dirt to the correct grade to place concrete under the guardrail where they none before. Then Dustin Allen comes back with the driver to install the new posts."
With the posts in place, the new guardrail is bolted to them. After the reflectors are installed on the guardrail, the Massana crews pour the concrete underneath the new infrastructure.
"Everything is going very well," said Starr, who noted that Massana has two storage yards where the materials for the cable barrier and guardrail installations are kept and delivered to the work sites as needed for the day via the company's tractor trailer.
The guardrail is being supplied by Pott's Distrubuting.
All of the concrete barrier will be cast-in-place, of which Massana is self-performing about 285 ft. and W.O.E. Construction roughly 1,190 ft. Massana's portion will be built by hand and W.O.E will slip form.
"We should be able to pour the concrete directly from the shoots of the ready mix trucks," said Starr, who pointed out that the concrete is being supplied by Golden Spread Redi-Mix Inc.
The concrete barrier installation will start in mid-May and should be finished in late July. It has been scheduled for last due to TxDOT's hourly lane closure fees on I-27, where much of the work is being done.
"Fees are charged on an hourly basis for closing down the road, so we want to finish everything on U.S. 87 and I-40 and combine all the crews for the I-27 work to minimize the fees we will have to pay," said Starr. "We have a good relationship with the DOT in Amarillo – we acknowledge and address every concern that they have and they've been responsive to any questions or concerns we've had. We have developed a group effort to successfully complete the project. This project has been a good one for us and a great opportunity to work with the DOT in Amarillo.
"Any job that is highly dependent on traffic control and closing lanes is exponentially more dangerous, so safety is a big deal," said Starr. "We want to not only protect our employees from all the traffic they are working around, but the citizens who are driving through our work site."
I-40 carries nearly 18,000 vehicles daily, I-27 more than 49,000, and more than 20,000 on U.S. 87.
In terms of new materials, more than 21,000 linear ft. of guardrail has been brought in, more than 53,000 linear ft. of cable barrier, and more than 8,000 tons of concrete. Materials removed include over 1,000 tons of concrete and more than 21,000 linear ft. of guardrail.
Dustin Allen is expected to retain some of the old guardrail to help with repair jobs, while the majority will be brought to recycling centers.
"The concrete spoils are being recycled at a concrete plant with a concrete crusher," said Starr, "so almost 100 percent of what's removed is being recycled."
Massana is utilizing two Gamaco pavers, a CAT 312 excavator, an International tractor trailer, a skid steer; a walk behind roller, and a loader.
"Pavers are notorious for being high maintenance items and you almost need a mechanic with a specialty in Gomaco pavers," said Starr. "We have a couple of in-house mechanics, but they are based out of Atlanta. They come out as needed, but we try to find local heavy equipment mechanics to help. We were lucky enough to find Truck Service Center LLC in Amarillo, a really good reliable company off of U.S. 87 that has helped us with all types of machinery."
Massana rents and purchases equipment from United Rentals, Sunbelt Rentals, Herc Rentals, and Caterpillar in Amarillo.
"Occasionally we need a piece of equipment that is not company owned," said Star. "For example, recently we had to break up some concrete and we rented as small excavator with a hammer attachment from United Rentals. It helps when you have a nation-wide account. You won't get bogged down by setting up credit when you travel and you get to deal with companies that you know."
Starr has experienced some issues with equipment rental firms.
"I've dealt with dealerships that have nickel and dimed us on equipment after it has been returned," he said. "For example, getting charged cleaning fees for equipment that went back clean, squeezing a half a gallon in the fuel tank and charge refueling fees, or huge repainting bills for equipment that had minor scratches. I understand abuse. If you're going to squeeze every penny out of me that you can, I can't afford to do business with you.
"We always try to obtain three quotes before selecting a vendor," he added. "The guys I do repeat business with are reputable, but I also try to form a relationship with them so I know who I'm dealing with. In the end it needs to be a symbiotic relationship – we both should make money."
This project is aimed to improve highway system safety and was funded predominately by funds from the Hazard Elimination Program (HES). The statewide HES program has provided $3.18 million for construction and the District provided the other $1.81 million required.
Work began on Feb. 11 and is being conducted via weekday shifts – Mondays to Fridays, with occasional Saturday shifts.
"It does get cold and it snows in Amarllo, we even had snow in mid-April," said Rob Starr, Massana's Texas division manager. "We've also experienced spring rains and had a number of snow days when it was too icy to work.
The cable barrier is all new, but the concrete barrier and guardrail has some existing sections being removed and replaced and new sections being added.
The cable barrier installation safety upgrade is being pressed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and the guardrail meets new standards that have been established.
"Safety is TxDOT's top goal and improving highway system safety fits within this goal," said Kit Black, Director of Transportation, Planning and Development for TxDOT's Amarillo District. "Project development began in late 2018, and was accelerated by the opportunity to have HES funds dedicated to this project."
The project was designed by the TxDOT design staff in the Amarillo District.
"There are at least two other similar projects currently in the construction phase in the Amarillo District," said Black, "and another two similar projects will go to letting later this year." CEG