Glenn Highway Design-Build – Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The Glenn Highway in Anchorage, Alaska, serves more than 50,000 motorists per day and during peak hours, the northbound lanes have often become congested with traffic, resulting in delays, driver frustration and vehicle crashes. In need of a major upgrade, the Glenn Highway Design-Build project consisted of adding a third northbound lane for approximately 2.5 miles, as well as constructing a new bridge over Eagle River. With a 6 percent downgrade as it conjoined the old bridge, the existing road had become a major safety concern, particularly with the precipitation Alaska experiences through the winter.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) turned to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. (KIWC) to complete the task of improving the congestion and safety of the Glenn Highway. “Here at KIWC, we do all sorts of work throughout the spectrum of the construction industry,” says Justin O’Brien, Alaska area sponsor for Kiewit “Our main focus up here in Alaska is primarily transportation work.”
The only constant is change
The $43 million project broke ground in July 2014 and was substantially complete in October 2015. With the year-round climate of Anchorage, Mother Nature is consistently unpredictable. September 2014 was a record-setting month for rainfall in Alaska, which created issues with the final stages of the project, such as completing asphalt paving and striping. “It’s always an unknown as far as what the weather is going to do up here and always our biggest challenge,” says O’Brien. “Fortunately we had a very good team including the DOT&PF, Kiewit as the builder and our designer. We all worked really well together.”
With awareness of the setbacks that the weather may cause, KIWC maintained a focus of completing a majority of the work before the October deadline. By working diligently throughout the summer, the company worked around the clock seven days a week to ensure completion of the project ahead of schedule.
In addition to battling the weather, a major challenge presented to KIWC was making sure traffic was transitioned onto the alignment with the new bridge by August. “We had to build a big mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall and open a third lane,” recalls O’Brien. “That time span was between Aug. 20 and Sept. 15.”
In measuring the overall success of the Glenn Highway Design-Build project, O’Brien says that the fact that the client was satisfied with the final product is the true testament of performance. “The client had their project completed on time and under budget,” he elaborates. “We as the builder are very happy with entire project so I think it was a very successful project for all parties involved.”
As a Fortune 500 construction, mining and engineering company, KIWC self-performed all of the grading, pipe and bridge work, which amounted to approximately 70 percent of the entire project. When it comes to hiring subcontractors, Kiewit examines factors such as price, schedule and reputation when choosing strategic partners. O’Brien says that ultimately KIWC looks for companies that it has working relationships with. “We look at how a certain sub has performed in the past for us and whether they are a known commodity or not,” he adds. “That’s really how we determine our method of moving forward on a project.”
A world of opportunity
Founded in 1884, KIWC has grown into an international company with locations throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. The business is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, and has completed work in Alaska since the 1950s. KIWC’s ethical, forward-thinking continues to build upon the company’s reputation of safe, high-quality engineering. An employee-owned company, KIWC is consistently ranked among the top five of the Engineering New-Record (ENR) Top 400 Contractors.
O’Brien joined KIWC in 2002 immediately upon graduating from college where he received a degree in engineering. Starting with the company as an entry-level engineer, O’Brien worked throughout the West Coast, taking on numerous responsibilities with KIWC. “The work that we do up here in Alaska is typical of the work we do all over the country,” he says. Obrien’s story is also typical of the opportunities for new hires directly out of college. “We often hire college graduates for entry-level positions and they are given opportunities to take on increased responsibilities throughout their tenure as they move up the corporate ladder,” adds O’Brien.
With the numerous opportunities in Alaska for KIWC, the company will continue to bid on work and complete transportation projects. The company as a whole will build upon its history and reputation and remain a leader as an international construction, mining and engineering company.
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