The success of two recent, and very different, Michigan projects illustrate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the design-build delivery method. Both the US-31 Connector/I-94 project and the Springwells WTP Sluice Gates project used a design-build delivery method that resulted in cost and time savings without interrupting service for end-users.
US-31 Connector/I-94 Design-Build
Originally approved for construction in 1981, the US-31 Connector project in Berrien County was developed to provides a limited-access freeway connection from the I-80/I-90 toll road in Indiana to the US-31/I-196/I-94 connection in Michigan. However, the segment stalled for 23 years after it was discovered that area provided a habitat to an endangered species. In 2004, the last four miles of the US-31 freeway were realigned to avoid environmental impacts and the $121.5 million dollar project began in July 2020 and opened to traffic in November 2022.
The Benesch-designed project included the reconstruction of I-94 from the existing six lane divided freeway to a barrier separated eight lane freeway; the reconstruction and realignment of I-94 Business Loop; a new roundabout on the I-94 Business Loop; the permanent removal of two bridges; and the construction of four new bridges to accommodate the new freeway and interchange.
Using a design-build approach, the US-31 Connector was constructed in two years and four months and opened to traffic quicker than traditional Design-Bid-Build delivery suggested.
“In 10 months, the team completed and received approval on the design plans and permits for a $121 million project all while assisting the contractor during construction,” said Project Manager Doug Strauss. “Through outstanding teamwork, the design-build team was able to tackle all the challenges this project presented and open on schedule and within budget.”
Springwells WTP Sluice Gates Design-Build
Serving 3.8 million residents and 112 communities, the Springwells Water Treatment Plant (WTP) in Dearborn, MI is one of the largest plants in the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) system. At over 90 years old, the existing sedimentation basin sluice gates and guides, which provide critical functions in controlling and isolating the sedimentation basins at the plant, needed to be replaced due to significant operational inefficiencies.
Benesch led the replacement of the facility’s sluice gates, guides and actuators along with the demolition, removal, transportation and disposal of the existing cast iron gates, guides, actuators and appurtenances; the design and architectural improvements to four gate houses; and structure rehabilitation and upgrades to four sedimentation basins that housed the sluice gates and actuators.
The basins previously had eight sluice gates that weighed 12 tons each. It took innovative planning and removal techniques to lift and lower the gates down to the effluent and influent conduit located more than 15 feet below the gate house floor. New, lighter-weight sluice gates were custom designed to be self-contained, relieve wear on the facility, and made it operationally easier and safer for plant personnel to operate.
“Given the heavy reliance on this plant, it was critical to maintain continuous operations during the project’s construction,” explained Project Manager/Senior Structural Engineer Peck-Hee Wee. “A design-build delivery method was used to efficiently replace the facility’s sluice gates, guides and actuators without interrupting critical water service.”
The approach also contributed to the GLWA being able to take ownership of the upgrades nearly a year earlier than anticipated and saving roughly 15% from the original budget.
Both projects earned Merit Awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies – Michigan. The project board for US-31 Connector/I-94 Design-Build also won the People’s Choice Award. Members of the project teams attended the 2023 Engineering & Surveying Excellence Awards Gala last week to be recognized for the projects’ success.