A New Gateway To The Lake: A Project Feature On Route 54 Miller County Interchange

Susan Haenisch | Thursday August 5, 2021
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Are you one of the 9 million people that have visited Lake of the Ozarks this past year? If so, you probably noticed the construction taking place at one of the main entrances of the lake. In the midst of the pandemic and the busiest year on record at the lake, Emery Sapp and Sons (ESS) crews got to work upgrading the Business Route 54 and Osage Hills intersection. The previously congested area started as only a signalized intersection. Our crews transformed the intersection into a partial diamond interchange, consisting of two new bridges and three roundabouts. In addition, our teams added a new connector road, reconstructed the outer roads, and installed a new waterline for the City of Lake Ozark, Missouri.

Combining crews from our DOT teams, ESS employee-owners were ready to take on a project that combined numerous phases of work and required the maintenance of a safe project corridor within a high-traffic area. The scope of the project included nearly 200,000 cubic yards of grading, 25,000 square yards of concrete paving, installation of 3,500 linear feet of storm sewer, and an asphalt paving overlay. In total, our crews self-performed approximately 70% of this project.

From preconstruction to close-out, ESS team members worked diligently to find efficiencies while maintaining safety and quality. With grit and ingenuity, our teams constructed two noteworthy innovations that had a big impact on the project. The project was originally designed with 13 separate phases for the construction of the roadway and roundabouts. The first innovation ESS proposed involved reimagining a more efficient way to construct the roundabouts. The new method eliminated several stages of this process and fast-tracked the construction during this phase of the project. The second innovation came from a decision made early on by MoDOT to utilize galvanized rebar steel, versus the standard epoxy technique, during the construction of one of the bridges. Based on studies with similar construction techniques, the MoDOT team contracted the use of rebar in one of the project’s two bridges to increase the longevity of the structure. MoDOT will now be able to monitor the two bridges to study how the use of galvanized rebar may increase the life cycle of the structure over time. Combined, these two innovations helped our team and client reduce project costs, increase quality, and significantly compress the project schedule.

Beyond project innovations, managing high-volumes of traffic and maintaining the safety of the traveling public was a crucial challenge on this project. The Lake of The Ozarks is a popular tourist destination that attracts people from all over the United States. Normally the lake averages around 5 million visitors per year, but with the pandemic driving local tourism, the lake experienced a surge of more than 9 million visitors this past year. We are proud to say that our teams maintained a safe project despite double the tourist traffic and risks associated with Covid-19.

The completion date for this project was December 1, 2021. Even with an abundance of rainy spring weather and pandemic-induced material shortages, our team’s innovations helped ESS blow the construction schedule out of the water! Our employee-owners were able to finish the project on July 16, 2021. That is four and a half months ahead of schedule! The project has drawn compliments from MoDOT and many others in the industry have taken notice. ESS is proud of our massive accomplishment, and so is the lake community.

Proud is an understatement. Project Manager Donnie Stevenson said, “Hands down the thing I am most proud of on this project is the way it looked from start to finish. Being located on Highway 54 at the Lake of the Ozarks, there was a lot of attention on this project. Our project superintendent Charlie Dowell did an amazing job keeping the site looking good throughout construction and the finished product is amazing. All the crews that worked on this project did an excellent job and it is one that we are proud to put our name on because of that hard work.”

It’s no secret that if you’re a Lake of The Ozarks local you weren’t too happy about the project when it started last year. However, lake locals couldn’t be happier with the outcome and improved traffic flow. “The completed project has helped traffic flow into and out of one of the most congested parts of the lake. As someone who lives off the Bagnell Dam strip and is busy showing real estate property all over the lake, it definitely makes it easier to get the north shore or head out of town.” said Cierra Grein, long-time lake resident and local real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty.

If you are headed down to the lake before summer is over you can thank the following rockstar ESS crews for completing this project early, and for a smoother drive into your weekend:

Grading

+ Charlie Dowell’s Crew

Underground Utilities

+ Dave Cook’s Crew

Trimming

+ Dallas Roan’s Crew

Structures

+ Troy Hunt’s Crew

+ Garrell Gardner’s Crew

+ Randall Wood’s Crew

Concrete and Asphalt Paving

+ David Vestal and Ivan Garcia’s Crew

+ Phil Divine’s Crew

+ Eric Siebuhr and Jason Spencer’s Crew