2017 Texas Project Awards

Written by  Kristen Ogden Smith

2017 Texas Project Awards

THE TEXAS PROJECT AWARD Program began 30 years ago when Raymond Stotzer, Engineer-Director of the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, asked Tom Johnson to partner with him to recognize department and contractor project employees who work together to bring high-quality projects through difficult circumstances.

Still today, the Texas Project Awards are a source of great pride for those who are recognized. And well they should be--these are the frontline employees who work in dangerous conditions to build beautiful and enduring highways in the state.

Construction Award # 1: SH 351 Access Management Project, Abilene District: Paul Norman, P.E. (TxDOT) and Alicia Nichols (Contract Paving) (not in attendance)
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Texas is home to one of the largest and most complex transportation systems in the world. By the same token, Texas is home to the best and brightest project design and construction professionals. This makes the selection process difficult. Although each project is different, the consistent characteristic among all of the Project Award recipients is that TxDOT contractors and staff displayed high levels of collaboration and skill under unusual circumstances to achieve tremendous results.

The Construction Awards recognize those who have gone “above and beyond” in using cooperation and partnership to do a quality job. These awards are presented to TxDOT project engineers, inspectors, and to project managers representing the general contractors. Many people are involved in the success of these projects, although we can’t name them all. Thus, we recognized 11 outstanding projects.

Congratulations to everyone who played a part in making these projects a success.

This project upgraded a five-lane section roadway with a continuous left turn lane into a four-lane urban section. The new section consists of a center median, curb and gutter, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, signalized intersections, and continuous lighting. To accommodate access changes to existing businesses, driveway consolidation and property interconnectivity were developed to improve safety for drivers.

There were changes to the plans during construction to address public concerns for access and extraordinary cooperation between TxDOT and Contract Paving with a third contractor doing signal work as part of another, but separate, contract for signalization improvements. The project also used CEI inspection which went above requirements in helping to address contractor needs. The resulting project has had considerable compliments from businesses, city officials, and the public.

Construction Award # 2: Emergency Replacement of the SH 21 Bridge Over Plum Creek, Austin District: Diana Schulze, P.E. (TxDOT) and Bill Mayfield (Capital Excavation Company)
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Construction Award # 3: Burr’s Ferry Bridge Project, Beaumont District: Paul Warden, P.E. (TxDOT) and Richard Dunwoody (Gibson and Associates)
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The SH 21 bridge culvert near FM 2001 was first damaged in the Halloween floods of 2015 and then destroyed by additional historic flooding (Memorial Day floods of May 2016) before replacement or repairs could be initiated.

Capital Excavation and district personnel collaborated on a solution using 50-foot slab beams. The contractor located a precaster that already had some 50-foot slab beams on hand for a Paris District bridge replacement project. With Paris’ approval, the Bridge Division and Austin District redesigned the bridge to match the SH21 site and subsurface conditions. The contractor then went to work.

The entire project was designed in four days and constructed in just four weeks from start to finish thanks to the dedication to excellence and collaboration of the Director of Maintenance, Bastrop Area Engineer, the contractor Capital Excavation, TxDOT Divisions, FHWA, Hays County officials and the Paris District.

On March 10, 2016, the Burr’s Ferry Bridge on SH 63 at the Texas/Louisiana state line was closed due to rising water along the Sabine River submerging the deck and a portion of the railing. Due to severe scouring, the bridge remained closed as TxDOT worked toward gaining an emergency contract.

Coordination between TxDOT, LaDOTD, FHWA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife was crucial in preparing the documentation, developing plans, and construction.

By August 22, 2016, Gibson & Associates, Inc. had been awarded the contract and construction soon began. H.W. Lochner, Inc. was hired to inspect the project. The contractor was given the go-ahead to work seven days a week and 24 hours a day.

They had to overcome problems with river level fluctuations requiring special construction techniques and existing materials that differed from what was expected.

The bridge opened to traffic on Jan. 6, 2017.

Construction Award # 4: I-10 At Major Dr. Project, Beaumont District Kenneth Wiemers, P.E. (TxDOT) and Kent Ducote (Williams Brothers)
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Construction Award # 5: Yale Street Bridge Replacement at White Oak Bayou, Houston District Paul Eley (TxDOT) and Mike Salch and Garry Massey (Lone Star Road Construction)
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The project, which let in July 2015, was awarded to Williams Brothers Construction Co. with construction beginning quickly in late August 2015. The project consisted of flipping the stack, replacing the jug handle design with a traditional diamond intersection, and widening Major Drive from a two-lane roadway to four lanes with a turn lane. The new I-10 overpass was built to accommodate the upcoming six-lane corridor expansion.

Significant areas of collaboration involved accommodating the South Texas State Fair and working around material availability problems due to torrential rains and flooding. This included using fill material from areas where the new design replaced existing sections and rubblizing concrete pavement to provide a working platform to be incorporated in the new subgrade.

The project utilized milestones with incentives and disincentives. The contractor attained substantial completion 3 months ahead of schedule and with a significant bonus.

This project removed and replaced a historic, yet weakened, bridge structure in very tight conditions.

The project would not have been accomplished without a high level of cooperation between the TxDOT staff, the contractor and numerous stakeholders. Further, the project has had considerable compliments from the traveling public – both for being completed ahead of schedule and for TxDOT’s willingness to incorporate elements of the previous bridge. It was completed well ahead of schedule and provided for ease of access for Super Bowl LI.

Very few complaints were received during construction due to carefully planned public outreach efforts by the Houston District’s Public Information Office (press releases, social media and citizen inquires) and efforts including revisions to the TCP and a proactive approach to all issues. The “can do” attitude by all personnel led to timely resolution of issues when they did arise.

Construction Award # 6: IH 45 at Allen Parkway project, Houston District Paul Eley (TxDOT) and Billy Mitchell (Main Lane Industries) and David Boehm (NBG)
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The IH 45 at Allen Parkway project was a Transportation System Management project to alleviate congestion for one of the state’s top 100 Most Congested Corridors. Proposed improvements consisted of removing and combining entrance ramps to reduce congestion and improve safety. The project required reconstructing two spans of the Houston Avenue overpass, lighting, wall removal and new walls, sewer and pavement work. Additionally, all work needed to be complete before the Super Bowl, but not impact holiday and central business district traffic. Lastly, there was a bridge hit that added emergency bridge reconstruction to the contract.

Collaboration with TxDOT, designers, and contractor personnel enabled the work to be done with minimum disruption and effective resolutions to project problems. The right people were in the right place at the right time to get the job done.


Rock Wall


Construction Award # 7: US 290 Project K Segment 2 project, Houston District Hamoon Bahrami, P.E. (TxDOT) and Elton Ward (Williams Bros.)

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Construction Award # 8: Starr Avenue Project, Lufkin District Steven Smith (TxDOT) and Charles Ebernez (Drewery Construction Company)  
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The I-610/US 290 interchange is divided into three separate contracts, with Project K being the first to undergo construction. It is a unique interchange in Houston and mobility improvements will provide relief on three major facilities: I-10, I-610 and US 290.

The contractor had to deal with delay from ROW acquisition, utility relocations, coordination with the 13 simultaneous US 290 projects in the corridor, and 250,000 vehicles per day transiting the project. The contract was set up with eight milestones, all of which the contractor finished on time or ahead of schedule earning a substantial bonus.

TxDOT worked with community leaders, contractors, various public and private parties and the traveling public to lessen the impact that construction would have on motorists.

Having a good working relationship and open communication throughout the project allowed the project managers to mitigate impacts from any issues that arose and kept the project moving forward.

In February of 2015, Drewery Construction Company, Inc. was awarded the project on FM 1878 in Nacogdoches County for $1.4 million. The project was a short, two-block project that consisted of reconstructing and widening the roadway from two to four lanes where a significant bottleneck existed, adding sidewalks and pedestrian elements, and upgrading and adding traffic signals. Charles Ebernez was the superintendent for Drewery and Steve Smith the inspector for TxDOT.

This project, running through Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin University, required significant traffic and pedestrian detours and coordination with the city, the university and adjacent businesses. Utility adjustments were a significant concern and both Steven and Charles worked to provide solutions as problems arose.

The city and university are happy with a well-completed project that provides significant public benefits.

Construction Award # 9: West Loop 250 Project, Odessa District Louis Lara (TxDOT) and Rob McNew (Reece Albert) 
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Cooperation, planning, communication, fiscal responsibility, and excellent time management were all part of a project that was a true win-win for the traveling public most importantly - but also for TxDOT and Reece Albert.

The project was simple enough in concept: relocate four Interstate 20 ramps near West Loop 250 in Midland. The expected payoffs would improve traffic flow at the intersections, improve safety on the two-way frontage roads, and keep traffic from backing up onto interstate main lanes. The project also added deceleration lanes on Interstate 20 as well as turn lanes on the frontage roads.

Changes in construction staging proposed by Reece Albert saved $446 thousand and 3 months off the construction time. This project also occurred when the district was implementing CEI consultants on some projects. Reece Albert helped make the CEI transition smooth.

Construction Award # 10: SH-154 Project in Hopkins County, Paris District Daniel Taylor, P.E. (TxDOT) and Buddy Boyd (D.L. Lennon, Dustin Lennon accepting on his behalf )
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Construction Award # 11: IH 35 Section 3B Project, Waco District Brian Fulwider (TxDOT) and John Gay (Lane Construction)
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This project consisted of widening and/or reconstructing a two-lane section without shoulders to a two-lane with shoulders and center left turn lane on SH-154 in Hopkins County from 0.315 miles north of FM-1567 west to 0.195 miles south of CR-1104. The project was approximately five miles long and had four separate phases of construction.

Problems encountered were:

• Existing materials at variable depth and often thicker than shown on the plans.

• A spring was uncovered during excavation requiring a mitigation plan.

• Traffic control and public complaints.

• Pavement surface deterioration.

All problems were addressed quickly with change orders that required partnering between TxDOT, Contractor, and even Subcontractors to minimize cost and progress the work.

The IH 35 Section 3B project in the Waco District reconstructed a 10-mile stretch of IH 35 from Woodlawn Road south of Lorena to FM 2063 in Hewitt at a cost of around $215 million. This project included construction of a new direct connector bridge from northbound FM 2113 to northbound IH 35 in Hewitt and two signature extradosed frontage road bridges over the Brazos River in Waco.

Coordination was a key part of construction during this project. The project impacted numerous cities (Bruceville- Eddy, Lorena, Hewitt, Robinson, and Waco) and drew attention from various local entities such as Baylor University with its new stadium under construction at the same time. From the beginning, TxDOT staff and Lane Construction worked together with those impacted to establish a relationship of communication and cooperation. They needed to complete the Brazos River bridges before football season, manage traffic flow and incidents, and manage schedules to prevent delays. They succeeded.

Design Award # 1: US 87 Truck Relief Route, Abilene District Tracy Jones, P.E., TxDOT
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Design Award # 2: Starr Avenue Project in Nacogdoches, Lufkin District Ana Mijares, P.E. and Cathy Loerch, C.E.T.
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Project Manager Tracy Jones designed the US 87 Truck Relief Route and overcame complex design problems and unique situations to remain on schedule and produce no significant construction problems. The project included 7.5 miles of new four-lane rural expressway with interchanges, retaining walls, detention ponds, crossings, and bridges.

It also included an additive alternate component for the construction of an overpass. The project included lane rentals and milestones and was staged so the right of way could be purchased and utilities adjusted without causing conflicts during the construction of the project. The project also had added complications of working in a railroad right of way and, possibly, a first-of-its-kind moving of an oil well.

Phase 1 is complete and has been highly successful.

FM 1878/Starr St. provides a route to Stephen F. Austin State University, neighborhoods, Pecan Park, hospital, and several nearby medical offices. At Clark Street, this road goes from four lanes to two, creating a traffic bottle neck. The project, which widened the roadway from North St. to Clark Blvd., would have not proceeded to construction if it hadn’t been for the partnering and coordination with utility companies and creative and resourceful design by Cathy Loerch, C.E.T. and Ana Mijares, P.E. Also, the project, within the heart of Nacogdoches, was carefully designed to have no impacts to adjacent buildings, businesses or residences. Since the design of FM 1878 was completed without delays, the project increased capacity for the traveling public and improved safety along Starr Street for through traffic and emergency vehicles after construction was complete.

Congratulations again to all the award-winners. Their projects represent the best of partnering, with accommodations for unusual circumstances and for making realtime decisions that delivered these projects to their communities with minimum inconvenience. These projects serve as a reminder to our industry that making decisions and implementing them as a team can produce extraordinary results.



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