Full Speed Ahead: A Project Profile on I-49 McDonald County
Summer road trip season is here, and the only thing more annoying than hearing “Are we there yet?” for the thirtieth time from the back seat, is having to tap off the cruise control to come to a stop on the open road. Emery Sapp and Sons (ESS) crews have been working six days a week to construct 5 miles of brand new Interstate 49. This will create an alternate route around the many stop lights and congestion on US Route 71 at the Missouri/Arkansas border. Commuters, freight and recreational travelers will no longer have to navigate the bottleneck that currently exists in this corridor.
Five miles of new roadway doesn’t sound that remarkable when you consider you can drive that in less than 5 minutes. But this project has been nothing but impressive. From the unique bidding process, to the massive scope of work, formidable equipment fleet, use of top-notch technology and meeting an aggressive schedule, everything about this project and ESS’s work has been extraordinary.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) let this project for bid as both Bid-Build and Alternative Technical Concept (ATC) Proposal procurement methods. ESS, along with engineering partner Bartlett & West, pursued the ATC proposal method. Using estimating and design software, ESS was able to optimize the roadway profile and vertical alignment, significantly reducing the excavation scope and eliminating approximately 1 million cubic yards of earthwork on the project. Josh Doerhoff, Vice President, was proud of his team’s efforts. “This exciting pursuit was a team effort of the entire DOT estimating staff. The teamwork they demonstrated proves ESS has the expertise to tackle the toughest of challenges while providing cost effective solutions for our partners.”
This five-mile long segment is one of the largest grading projects for MoDOT in recent years. Coupled with an extremely aggressive schedule, it required a high level of communication and a fierce equipment fleet to tackle the scope. Oh, and also dynamite! In this instance, size really does matter, and ESS mobilized some of the largest excavation equipment made onto the site. Want to hear something staggering? This project team was able to move 3.6 million cubic yards of dirt and rock in just 9 months.
Project Manager, Daniel Hoyt, was in awe over our efforts. “The scale and speed of this project was impressive. It was exciting to watch some of the largest equipment in our fleet run at full speed, and see the amount of dirt and rock we could move in a single shift. Not many contractors can do what we accomplished in the same timeframe and still maintain quality work. Randy Mauzey, [ESS Superintendent], is one of the best at planning and executing grading operations, and his expertise was on display here.”
Earthwork wasn’t the only goal-crushing scope. The project included the construction of two overpass bridges and a new interchange. With the acceptance of a value engineering (VE) proposal, structures crews were able to complete the I-49 interchange and overpass bridge 30 days ahead of schedule, allowing Route 90 to open early. Other major structures on the project include three bridge-class box culverts, and 10 precast box culverts placed in deep fill areas.
ESS prides itself on being infrastructure innovators, and we lived up to that on the McDonald County project. Throughout the grading operation, the team utilized drone topography data to precisely quantify our earth moving production. This technology had two benefits. It helped ensure the project was on track to meet schedule, and the topography flight data was converted into 3D models that were used to modify the grading plans on the fly. It isn’t common for a contractor to have these design capabilities, and both MoDOT and ESS benefited from the use of this technology.
In addition, the new interstate is being paved with stringless technology, and they’re moving at an impressive rate – averaging more than 3000 feet a day. Stringless paving combines surveying techniques with modern technological advancements. The ESS data team provides the field with a 3D model that represents the engineer’s plans. By using Leica Total Stations that are set to the project’s coordinates, lasers are utilized to measure prisms that are mounted on the masts of the paver and this calculates the machine’s location in reference to the 3D model that was provided.
Stringless paving is effective in that it is used in every step of construction, from prepping the subgrade to the final grade. This is important because all equipment, from the dozer to the paver is run off the same 3D model. This creates a seamless workflow uninterrupted from having to maintain, re-set, or replace stringline and paving hubs, as with more traditional stringline methods. ESS has one of the largest stringless paving operations in the midwest, and the McDonald County project rates as one of our top three biggest scopes completed with stringless technology. When the project is finished, the new four-lane divided highway will have been constructed with 237,000 square yards of concrete pavement.
Karen Lane, Project Manager for MoDOT praised everyone involved in the project. “ESS is the stuff dreams are made of for doing a project of this size and I cannot say enough good things about everyone. From Vice President Chip Jones to Dalton Mann the grade checker, to those who work in the offices and those grinding it out in the field day-after-day, everyone is just fantastic. Emery Sapp & Sons is in good hands with young men like Daniel Hoyt and Andrew Krumm leading the next ESS generation!”
With the completion of this project, Interstate 49 will be a continuous stretch from Kansas City, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Soon, the only thing you’ll be tapping the cruise control for is so that your “Don’t make me pull this car over” threat is more believable.
So far, 15 different crews have had a hand in making this project successful. Led by the following foremen, all ESS employee-owners should be proud of what is being accomplished at the Missouri/Arkansas border.