Mn/DOT Teams Up With Detroit Lakes on $42M Project

Tue September 09, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson




Although the project was a huge undertaking that required shifting a river, regrading and shifting a railroad and adding both a five-lane bridge and a four-lane bridge, contractors were able to shave off one year of construction time by using innovative contracting methods, incentives and creative scheduling.

The effort to reduce the overall duration of the project was a direct result of community feedback during the planning stages of the project. “Community members, especially members of the business community, were very clear in public planning meetings that a three-year project would have a dramatic negative impact on the local economy,” said Shiloh Wahl, project engineer of Mn/DOT. “Mn/DOT heard those concerns and we did our best to address them.”

The project, located in the city of Detroit Lakes, Minn., is a joint effort between the city of Detroit Lakes, Mn/DOT and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF).

“The total project construction cost, including work in 2006 and 2007, totaled about $42 million. Additional costs arose with the purchase of the BNSF right of way so old Highway 10 could be run on the BNSF right of way. We shifted 1.5 miles of the BNSF tracks 50 feet to the north, at an $8.5 million cost; included in that cost was the construction of half of the Roosevelt Avenue underpass and the railroad bridge,” Wahl explained.

Work was broken into four phases, including reconstruction and realignment of approximately 3 mi. (4.8 km) of Highway 10; realignment of the BNSF railroad tracks; construction of a Roosevelt Avenue underpass of Highway 10 and the BNSF railroad; reconstruction of approximately 0.5 mi. (0.8 km) of Highway 59 between Highway 10 and Highway 34, and the construction of a frontage road around Big Detroit Lake from East Shore Drive to downtown Detroit Lakes.

Work began in 2006 when Mn/DOT started reconstruction of the intersection at Highways 59 and 34, including installation of a new signal system. A second portion of the project consisted of the construction of a BNSF railroad bridge over the new Roosevelt Avenue alignment, including the first half of the new Roosevelt Avenue underpass and construction of the new railroad grade. These projects helped minimize traffic impacts resulting from the Highway 10/Connect Detroit Lakes project that would begin in 2007.

Bidding then took place for the bulk of the work, which began in 2007 and only took two years versus the three it could have taken. “The whole project was reduced one full year due to innovative contract bidding methods,” Wahl said.

A New Way of Bidding

Mn/DOT incorporated an “A plus B” bidding process, which has only been used approximately three years by Mn/DOT and only twice now in the Detroit Lakes district.

“Under the ’A plus B’ bidding package, contractors were given an option to bid on the number of days in which they thought they could complete the project,” Wahl said. “’A’ is the actual work going on where contractors bid on all the planned work; that is a total dollar amount of all the physical work and the ’B’ portion is the number of days in which they think they can get the project done. We placed a value of $5,000 a day for that timeframe; 532 was set as the minimum number of days and 835 was set as the maximum number of days; in this case Hoffman bid 532 days.”

Prompting an accelerated construction period requires that the contractor comes in with more equipment and manpower, which singles out the larger companies that have those additional resources.

Work resumed in February 2007 when the Highway 10/Connect Detroit Lakes project was let and awarded to Hoffman Construction Company of Black River Falls, Wis. Construction on the project commenced in mid-April 2007. Major work that occurred during the 2007 construction season included:

• Relocation of the BNSF railroad to the new railroad grade constructed in 2006

• Construction and opening of the Roosevelt Avenue underpass

• Construction of the new Highway 10 bridge over Roosevelt Avenue

• Removal of the old two-lane Highway 59 bridge over the BNSF and Canadian Pacific railroads, and construction and opening of a new five-lane bridge in that location

• Reconstruction of the Highway 10/59 intersection, including a new signal system, and the addition of several turning and auxiliary lanes

• Construction of a frontage road around Big Detroit Lake

• Grading of the new Highway 10 alignment through town

• Removal and reinstallation of new railroad crossings at Kris Street and County Highway 54

The bidding incentives were included in the work to be completed at the intersection of highways 59 and 10 and to demolish the existing Highway 59 bridge and replace it with a new five-lane bridge over the Burlington Northern and Canadian Pacific railroad. “We had a whole intersection completed in one year and we were able to save $300,000,” Wahl said.

Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, Wis., was the bridge contractor and Hoffman Construction Co. was the prime contractor and the grading contractor.

Ways to Save Time and Money

Wahl explained that the savings of not paying two flaggers at a rate of approximately $2,500 a day for six months created the money needed to pay the contractor for completing the project early.

“There was no net increase in money [spent on the job] but the money that was to be used to pay the flaggers and to pay the Burlington Northern and Pacific Railroad guys, was [instead] used to pay Lunda Construction. There was also much less impact on the whole area due to the accelerated schedule,” Wahl said.

“If the contractor with the winning bid chose to go for the $300,000 it meant they had to finish the whole project, which includes highways 10 and 59, by December 1, 2007,” Wahl said. “If they chose not to go for it, they had until June 30, 2008, to finish all that work.”

There also was a detour rental portion of the bid, which included the Roosevelt underpass. Under this method, the contractors are required to bid the amount of time they need to leave detours in place on the project.

“We put a maximum number of days the contractor could detour Roosevelt and if they finished early they received a $5,000 per day incentive but if they finished late they got a $10,000 disincentive per day. We used that on three detours in Detroit Lakes: Washington Avenue, Kris Street, and Roosevelt Avenue,” said Wahl.

“We put a 50-day maximum detour on the Roosevelt intersection so it could be opened prior to school starting in the fall of 2007,” Wahl said. “The intersection was opened on day 48 and so the contractor received a $10,000 incentive.”

Chad Johnson, project manager with Hoffman Construction, said, “We bid this project to complete it in two years. To meet that timetable we proposed some value engineering and accelerating a lot of the staging; we worked on an accelerated schedule by putting in more hours last year.”

Johnson explained that value engineering means Hoffman Construction identifies an area where the construction can be changed to make it less expensive. For example, maybe adding a half an inch of concrete can eliminate some open grade base course. “So we run the numbers and the DOT engineers look at our proposal and if it is accepted, the savings are split between the DOT and the contractor.”

To complete work during the 2007-2008 phases, approximately 440,000 cu. yd. (336,404 cu m) of soil was moved, Johnson said, which included common and muck excavation, though the muck quantity was small. Another 243,000 cu. yd. (185,786 cu m) of sand was used for the embankment. Almost all of the on-road dump trucks that were used were 40-ton trucks along with some Cat 740 off-road trucks.

Hoffman Construction completed the dirt and storm sewer work, using 345 and 320 Cat backhoes and D6R and D6N Cat dozers. The D6R was used for the first half of the project and was equipped with GPS to ensure accurate grading and minimal staking, Johnson said. Hoffman also worked with Mn/DOT on a pilot program using a GPS roller for intelligent tracks compaction. “Last year was the first year we were exposed to it,” Johnson said. “This emerging technology maps out the grade to ensure no area is missed. GPS units are placed on the dozers and on the blade, which helps reduce the number of people needed, such as a stake runner next to the blade. We make a pass over the grade and DOT does the verification staking so the process requires less labor and a lot less corrective work.”

Also in 2007, a 9- by 16-ft. (12.7 by 4.9 m) box culvert was installed using one Terex 100-ton (90.7 t) crane, American cranes, and a 150-ton (136 t) Terex truck crane. The Pelican River also was rerouted. “We just moved it a little by shifting the whole channel 50 feet to the west. The old channel went through a series of arch pipes and box culverts and so the new 500-foot-long box culvert is under the railroad. At the bottom of the culvert is two feet of rock riprap with a four-foot boulder staggered every 10 feet. The Department of Natural Resources wanted that to assist in fish spawning,” Wahl said.

Working By The Railroad

To work on Roosevelt Avenue, dewatering was required to drop the water table 19 ft. (5.8 m). “We pumped about 3 million gallons each day to keep the hole dry,” Wahl said. “We used 12-inch steel casing with eight 4-inch pumps. Water was pumped into [an] existing storm sewer that dumped into two retention ponds that ultimately ended up in the Pelican River.”

When dewatering that close to the railroad, workers needed to be concerned with settlement of the tracks (60 to 65 trains go through every 24 hours), so 24/7 track monitoring was necessary. Mn/DOT set up a station on top of a grocery store in Detroit Lakes and placed approximately 75 prisms on the railroad tracks. The station shoots a laser at the prisms and provides xyz coordinates to a radio tower and all the information is downloaded to an Internet program that can be accessed online from anywhere. Mn/DOT is then able to log in and watch for track settlement.”

If the track settles beyond 0.75 in. (2 cm) in a 39-ft. (11.9 m) span Mn/DOT is notified. “We did have some settlement but not from dewatering, but from vibrating the sheet piling into place. Placing the sheet piling was stopped so the track alignment could be shifted. We were working within 14 feet of that mainline track. We had helical anchors installed in the sheeting that held off the sheet piling while the bridge was built,” Wahl said.

To accelerate the project, Highway 10 traffic was moved to the frontage road during the winter between the 2007 and 2008 construction seasons, so that crews were able to get 85 percent of the grading completed in the fall of 2007, which helped accelerate some of the project staging to meet the Sept. 30, 2008 completion date.

“We are ahead of schedule and were able to switch all Highway 10 traffic to the new Highway 10 alignment by the end of June 2008,” Wahl said. Once the traffic was converted, removal of old Highway 10 could begin and construction of the new frontage from the Holiday Inn, on the east edge of the project, into downtown Detroit Lakes could begin.

Going Into the Final Phase Ahead of Schedule

In 2008, the final year of major project work, construction resumed to include:

• Concrete paving on the new Highway 10 alignment

• Placement of the deck on the Highway 10 bridge over Roosevelt Avenue

• Traffic shift onto the new Highway 10 alignment by the end of July 2008

• Construction of a new frontage road linking East Shore Drive with downtown Detroit Lakes

• Removal of the “S-curve” portion of the old Highway 10 alignment through downtown Detroit Lakes

• Construction and connection of city streets to the new alignment

• Reconstruction of Roosevelt Avenue from the underpass to Oak Street

• Reconstruction of the Washington Avenue and Highway 10 intersection

• Construction of the new scenic overlook between the frontage road and Big Detroit Lake

As of July 2008, 90 percent of the mainline concrete had been poured and crews were working on curb and gutter and pouring the median between the westbound and eastbound lanes, Wahl said. Johnson adds that approximately 97,000 sq. yd. (81,104 sq m) of concrete was required for the pavement portion of the project.

“With about 20 subcontractors on the job, they have most of the new Highway 10 paved. Our scheduled completion date is Sept. 30 and we are on line to finish that,” Johnson said.

When completed in 2009, the newly aligned Highway 10 corridor will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and provide an alternate route from East Shore Drive to downtown Detroit Lakes. The project also will improve water quality flowing into the Pelican River and Detroit Lake through new treatment ponds.

“To ensure cleaner water runoff into Big Detroit Lake, a water treatment system was set up so that any salt used on the roadway will to be treated before entering the lake. When we started this project all the water from Highway 10 ran into Big Detroit Lake without being treated. We added two vortex systems, one rain garden and six storm water retention ponds. Upon completion, 50 percent of the phosphorus will be removed and 90 percent of suspended solids will be removed,” Wahl said.

The ultimate goal of the project is to improve safety and mobility along the Highway 10 corridor in Detroit Lakes, at the intersection of Highway 59, an area where traffic increases greatly with summer lake traffic that comes from the Fargo/Moorhead area, approximately 50 mi. (80.4 km) to the west with a combined population of about 150,000.

“Summer traffic comes from the Fargo/Moorhead area on Highway 10, onto Highway 59 in order to get to Highway 34. The new five-lane bridge over Highway 59 and the new four-lane bridge over Roosevelt Avenue at the junction of Highway 10 really reduced the congestion, so the city and the public are pleased. At Highway 10 traffic used to just drive over the tracks,” Wahl explained.

Safety-wise, there were “originally 70 access points onto Highway 10 and now there are only seven access points, which will be controlled. Five will be signalized through Detroit Lakes,” Wahl said.

“The Roosevelt intersection was the highest accident intersection in the county,” Wahl said. “So we eliminated it with an underpass. The Lake Street crossing was dangerous, so we removed that as well. By removing the vehicle crossing there was also a lot of benefit to the railroad.”

To aid in safety, the city of Detroit Lakes is applying for a whistle-free zone throughout the city, with Mn/DOT’s assistance. “We are building the infrastructure but there are several guidelines that need to be incorporated before that can apply. So we are putting in these requirements. For example, at some of the crossings there will be Quad 4 gates and a median so vehicles can’t drive around the crossings. “We’re looking at 2009 for the whistle free to take effect,” Wahl said. CEG