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Maryland Highway Takes The Eco-Friendly High Road

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Maryland has a soft spot for turtles. Not only is the turtle the mascot of the state's College Park-based university, it is a symbol of the high level of environmental stewardship demanded on its transportation projects. On the state's $478.5-million Intercounty Connector Contract A project, the design-build team instituted a turtle management plan that saved and relocated more than 400 eastern box turtles during the nearly four-year construction schedule.

Photo Courtesy of Intercounty Constructors
Big Stretch: Contract A, the first portion of an 18-mile, controlled access toll road, was built under a best-value, design-build contract.
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In compliance with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' turtle collecting permit, an annual report was submitted documenting all turtles collected, marked, released or relocated at the end of each calendar year. The turtle program is just one element of a project that pushed for excellence in environmental stewardship across the entire six-lane, 7.2-mile highway's path. “This project had the most stringent environmental requirements that I've ever seen,” says Gene Kelley, regional manager for Granite Construction.

The first portion of an 18-mile, controlled-access toll road, Contract A was built under a best-value, design-build contract by Intercounty Constructors, a joint venture between Granite Construction, Watsonville, Calif.; Corman Construction, Annapolis Junction, Md.; and G.A. & F.C. Wagman, York, Pa. Parsons Transportation Group and Jacobs Engineering, both of Pasadena, Calif., teamed up to lead the design duties.

“Every aspect of the project design dealt with environmental commitments,” says Mark Holcomb, vice president at Parsons and design manager on the project. Through its design efforts, the team avoided or minimized environmental impacts, saving more than 35 acres of forest, 1,000 linear feet of streams and five acres of parkland. To aid in mitigation, the team developed a stormwater runoff treatment system that uses chitosan flocculant to allow the clay soils to indefinitely remain suspended and solid in the runoff.

The team, while accommodating local wildlife, also had to consider impacts on neighboring residents. To cross through one community, the team created a 615-ft deck-over, cut-and-cover tunnel to reduce noise and improve aesthetics. Contour grading was designed throughout the limits of the project so that the resultant landforms were natural in appearance and blended well with the surrounding landscape. Changes in slopes were rounded to appear smooth and natural.

Ten different planting zones were identified for thW various land-use types that the corridor passes through. Designers aimed to give each zone a unique appearance that blended the highway terrain into the surrounding environment.

As a design-build project, the Maryland State Highway Administration conducted less quality assurance oversight than under typical design-bid-build procurement, transferring more of that responsibility to the design-build team. The team used 35 full-time independent quality-control professionals and numerous field engineers, designers and installer superintendents. Each participated in planning for and measuring quality as work progressed.

Use of design-build for procurement created both advantages and challenges for the team. Permitting, in particular, was a major undertaking, says Bill Cox, president of Corman Construction.

“With traditional design-bid-build, as contractors we aren't involved in the permitting,” he says. “For design-build, we are. It took a bit of a learning curve to get through exactly what Maryland was looking for. They are very particular and have very stringent requirements. Once we came to grips with that then the process moved much more smoothly.”

Through design-build, the team could be innovative and proactive with solutions to challenges, Holcomb says. One major element was the redesign of the Metro Access Road interchange from a three-level interchange to a two-level interchange, eliminating retaining walls and saving the owner millions of dollars.

Kelley says that through design-build the project was greatly accelerated, breaking ground in November 2007 and reaching completion in July 2011. As the first portion of the ICC project, Contract A set the tone for subsequent work, he says.

“We were the guinea pigs,” he says. “We faced a lot of initial hurdles with Maryland's environmental requirements, but the rest of the project will benefit from what we learned.”

Editors Note: Cracks were discovered in pier caps of three ICC bridges after judging was completed. The bridges may need to be rebuilt. The Maryland State Highway Administration says that Intercounty Constructors will handle the extra work and costs. In a statement, SHA said that the pier cap cracks are believed to be a design issue. Investigation is ongoing, but SHA and design engineer Parsons inspected the structures and agree there is no public safety concern. The contractor and SHA have put in a temporary modification to ensure safety, SHA stated.

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Key Players

Owner: Maryland State Highway Admin., Beltsville, Md.

General Contractor: Intercounty Constructors, a joint venture of Granite Construction, Corman Construction and G.A. & F.C. Wagman

Construction Manager: Granite Construction Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

Lead Designer: Parsons Transportation, Pasadena, Calif.

Submitted by: Intercounty Constructors, a joint venture of Granite Construction, Corman Construction and G.A. & F.C. Wagman

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