In just slightly more than 3-and-a-half years a project that was expected to take more than five years has been completed. And as a result, Missourians in every county of the state are driving across new and improved bridges that will serve their needs for many years to come.
The $685 million Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program drew to a close on November 8 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Route 11 bridge over the BNSF Railroad in Chariton County. At the event, Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Rudy Farber said, “"This was a fabulous program - the biggest bridge program in Missouri history. It’s really hard to imagine – 802 new or improved bridges in just 3-1/2 years.”
When the Commission launched the program in September of 2008, a goal was established to have 802 bridge projects completed by the end of 2014. Nearly 250 of those bridges were to be rehabilitation projects processed through MoDOT’s monthly letting schedule, with 100 under contract by the spring of 2009. The remaining 554 bridges – all complete replacements – were to be accomplished through a single design-build contract.
In May 2009, KTU Constructors, a joint venture of Kiewit Western Company, Traylor Brothers, Inc. and United Contractors, Inc., was selected as the design-build contractor. They committed to finish the project by December 31, 2013, and ultimately beat that goal by 14 months.
The Commission celebrated the anticipated completion of Safe & Sound at its October meeting in Neosho. There, KTU Executive Scott Cassels and MoDOT Project Director Ken Warbritton cited teamwork as the key to the successful completion of the program. Cassels noted that 491 of KTU’s 554 bridges were completed by what he called “the hometown team” – 22 Missouri contractors and more than 100 subcontractors and materials suppliers. An additional 21 local bridge builders and many more subcontractors performed the rehab work. “You are blessed with fantastic craftsmen here in Missouri,” Cassels said, noting than as many as 500 were working at any one time on the many KTU jobsites.
Safe & Sound was not a complicated construction project (the average bridge was 150 feet long and 24 feet wide), but the logistics were mind-blowing – moving men, equipment and materials all over the state. Cassels said that on its projects alone, 20,000 loads were delivered in three construction seasons and that KTU vehicles traveled three million miles (equivalent to 120 trips around the globe) carrying personnel who administered the work.
The key to the rapid completion of Safe & Sound was the strategy to close roads and replace bridges in the same location, eliminating the need for costly roadwork. The average closure was just 42 days, or half the time of a normal bridge replacement project. “We proved that Missourians will accept some inconvenience if you work with them in advance, show some flexibility in when you are going to close the road, then follow through with the speed you have promised,” Warbritton said.
MHTC Commissioner Stephen Miller was gratified to learn that 90 percent of the work was performed by Missouri workers. “This project demonstrates that design-build does not export jobs. We combed the country seeking innovation then utilized our local contractors to deliver the work.”
MoDOT Director Kevin Keith noted that the lessons learned from Safe & Sound “has created a new model for bridge projects in not only our state but for our country.” Cassels added, “Other states should take note of what Missouri has achieved with a statewide bridge program that has delivered such dramatic results. We can’t fix crumbling infrastructure a little bit at a time.”
As a result of the Safe & Sound program, MoDOT reversed the recent trend that showed a growing percentage of deficient bridges. Now, 79 percent of Missouri’s bridges are in good condition.
Maintaining that momentum, however, is unlikely within MoDOT’s current construction budget that has fallen to about $700 million per year. Farber said, “Missourians aren’t likely to see this type of improvement project again until we solve this funding shortage. We are committed to maintain our current system for as long as possible, but significant projects, like this one, will not be possible.”
FASTEST SAFE & SOUND PROJECTS
* Nighttime impact to traffic.
Time Lapse Video: 40 Days Ahead of Schedule in Cape Girardeau County