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Safe & Sound Initiative Helps Missouri Bridges Bounce Back

Wed December 21, 2011 - Midwest Edition
Jennifer Rupp

There are 10,405 bridges on the Missouri state highway system — 7th largest total nationwide. Approximately 1,100 of them are in poor or serious condition. The Safe & Sound Initiative will address most of these bridges.

“We’ve focused on system improvements over the last 10 years and have made significant progress improving the condition of our roadways, but we haven’t been able to address our growing inventory of deficient bridges. Routine bridge replacements were being done every year, but we couldn’t get ahead of the curve,” said Bob Brendel, special assignments coordinator of MoDOT.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) unveiled the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program in September 2006 to rehabilitate or replace 802 of the worst bridges in the state of Missouri. The original model called for a design-build-finance-maintain contract. Under that scenario, the successful team would have financed the project, completed design and construction within five years. Then they would have maintained the bridges in a satisfactory condition for an additional 25 years, during which they would have received availability payments tied to completion and bridge condition. MoDOT’s payments would have been made from a portion of its annual Federal bridge funds allocation. (courtesy of

“In 2006, we put a total bridge program together. It changed a little along the way, but at the end of the day, we’re going to deliver the end results of more than 800 new and improved bridges almost two years early,” said Brendel.

After going through the procurement process and receiving proposals in September 2008, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC) deemed that effort to be unaffordable due to the credit market crisis. Instead, the MHTC directed MoDOT to move in a different direction with the same goal — the improvement of the same 802 bridges. MoDOT split out the 248 bridges that it saw as candidates for rehabilitation. Those bridges were grouped by type, size or location and contracted using a modified design-bid-build approach. That decision saved more than $500 million over the cost of the previous contract model. With more than 230 completed, only a handful of bridges are left.

The remaining 554 bridges — all replacements — were packaged in a design-build contract and a second procurement was begun. The target date for completion was Oct. 31, 2014.

In May of 2009, MoDOT awarded the design-build contract for the 554 bridge removals/ replacements to KTU Constructors, a joint venture of Kiewit Western Co., Traylor Bros. Inc., and United Contractors Inc. They are joined by design partners HNTB Corporation and The LPA Group Inc. KTU committed to complete these bridges ten months prior to the target date and are now more than a year ahead of that schedule.

KTU Constructors is managing the project from a central office in Lee’s Summit and regional offices around the state. KTU is utilizing Missouri-based subcontractors and materials suppliers to deliver the project. Safe & Sound will directly or indirectly support more than 5,300 jobs.

The lead in the joint venture, Kiewit Western Co., has been in business since 1884. Kiewit is one of the largest employee-owned firms in the nation and they are noted for broad-based ownership, with U.S. and Canadian employee-shareholders. Nearly all construction projects are staffed by one or more owners of the company.

The total cost of the Safe & Sound program is $685 million. MoDOT has sold GARVEE bonds (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles) to pay for the project, with 24 annual payments of approximately $50 million. MoDOT will use roughly one-third of the Federal bridge replacement funds it receives each year to make those payments. The Safe & Sound program requires no additional funding.

The first Safe & Sound rehabilitation projects began in spring 2009 and the first replacement projects started that fall. On April 23, 2009, MoDOT announced the successful completion of the first bridge repaired under the Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program. Route AA Bridge over Hominy Creek is located in Polk County. By the end of 2010, 330 bridges were completed. Those bridges were built by 40 contractors and a host of subcontractors, fabricators and materials suppliers.

As of Dec. 9, 2011, 660 bridges had been completed, 15 bridges were under construction and 127 bridges remain to be constructed in 2012.

“None of the bridges are big or complicated; it’s the logistics of an effort of this magnitude. KTU had to figure out how to effectively move resources around the state while being sensitive to the surrounding community.

“We’ve had flexibility with our schedules to work around local events and accommodate school districts,” said Brendel.

The average bridge closure for 493 bridges will be 45 days — nearly half of what a normal MoDOT bridge project would take. MoDOT has the ability to move bridges within KTU’s proposed construction schedule to respond to local events and issues. This has already been done more than 30 times to minimize inconvenience to drivers and local residents.

“Our focus has been solely on the bridges so the replacement time is faster.”

MoDOT has dealt with isolated sites of community discord, but overall, the response has been tremendously positive.

Since the project began, MoDOT has received many inquiries from other state departments of transportation about the Safe and Sound program. It may not be long before nearby states tackle their deficient bridges on a grand scale as well.

The entire program, the largest bridge improvement project in Missouri history, will be completed by Dec. 31, 2013.

For more information visit CEG

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