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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: Accelerated Bridge Construction

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Accelerated bridge construction is an important innovation in horizontal construction that allows contractors to erect bridges significantly faster than conventional bridge construction methods without sacrificing quality. By using prefabricated elements and systems, accelerated bridge construction allows contractors to complete projects and satisfy contracts at a previously unattainable clip. This bodes well for the construction industry, which is contending with a labor shortage and actively looking for ways to cut costs without compromising quality.

In this article, the Orlando construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will take an in-depth look at accelerated bridge construction and discuss its effect on the construction industry as a whole. If you are a contractor partaking in or wishing to partake in an accelerated bridge construction project, consult an Orlando construction lawyer for assistance with submitting a bid. Our lawyers can also review your contract to ensure that it is mutually beneficial for you and the owner, whether it’s a private investor or government entity.

What Sets Accelerated Bridge Construction Apart?

Unlike conventional bridge construction, which is considered one of the most demanding types of horizontal construction, accelerated bridge construction is based on an assortment of innovative building principles that are markedly different than those used in the past. The planning phase of accelerated bridge construction takes into account pioneering design practices, incorporates new materials, embraces avant-garde building methodologies, and revamps the conventional bridge construction model to create an all-around superior end product.

More importantly, accelerated bridge construction embraces urgency and takes pride in minimizing disruption on the societal level while improving worker safety. As it turns out, when traffic patterns only need to be altered for days or weeks at a time, and not months and years, there’s a greatly reduced chance of an incident derailing a project that can’t seem to reach the finish line. Plus, as we’ll discuss in greater detail later, speeding up the project timeline without increasing the volume of workplace hazards creates an overall safer working environment for your employees. In this regard, accelerated bridge construction is a win-win for all parties involved.

Reducing Time and Increasing Safety

As more and more building firms embrace the principles of accelerated bridge construction, the construction industry as a whole is seeing firsthand how innovative thinking can lead to remarkably superior results. In some cases, accelerated bridge construction has reduced construction time from weeks to days, and in others, projects that would take days are being wrapped up in mere hours. As the amount of time spent building is reduced, public and worker safety increases. When you consider the fact that the construction industry lost 971 workers to work-related fatalities in 2017 alone, it becomes a lot easier to appreciate the value of this important inverse relationship and how it can contribute to reducing this alarming statistic.

The Beginning of Accelerated Bridge Construction

Equipment World published an article detailing one of the earliest accelerated bridge construction projects in the United States. In 2002, Lawrence Construction, a contracting firm based in Littleton, Colorado, that specializes in heavy civil construction, was awarded a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) bridge replacement project between Castle Rock and Franktown. The project, which took place on a portion of State Highway 86 spanning the Mitchell Gulch, called for the replacement of an old, deteriorating bridge with a conventional three-cell cast-in-place concrete box culvert.

At the time, accelerated bridge construction wasn’t a widely embraced concept, but the president of Lawrence Construction, Rick Lawrence, was concerned about the safety of his workforce. A steep downward grade on the highway approach to the west had the potential to put this team’s safety at risk, and a detour, which ran directly into a visibility-limiting curve, would require extra caution to prevent an accident involving commuter traffic.

To solve this problem, Lawrence partnered with a local design firm to submit a proposal for an entirely prefabricated single-span bridge that could be installed over the weekend thereby reducing work-zone time. As an added bonus, they were able to keep their project under budget.

Florida International University’s Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (ABCUTC) published a brief summary of the project outlining some important takeaways including:

  • Mobility Impact: accelerated bridge construction resulted in a weekend closure of 46 hours whereas conventional construction would have resulted in a two to three month closure.
  • Impact Category: the impact of this project was ranked as Tier 2 (within 3 days).
  • Primary Drivers: by using accelerated bridge construction, this project managed to reduce its impact on traffic while improving work-zone safety as a result of significantly decreased duration of time spent on the project site.
  • Dimensions: the single-span prestressed concrete slab bridge was 40 feet long and 43 feet wide.

Cutting Costs and Losses

Safety is of paramount importance on the construction site. Failing to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) rules and regulations governing workplace safety could cost you more than just money. Our Orlando construction attorneys have seen firsthand how negligence can end a contractor’s career, and nobody wants to be viewed as responsible for a fatality on the project site. Reducing the number of accidents on your project site is important, and if you can manage to cut costs at the same time, well, that’s even more welcome. Accelerated bridge construction excels in both of these areas.

The cost savings for transportation departments and contractors alike make accelerated bridge construction an attractive option for firms that are ready to ingratiate themselves with this cutting-edge building process. Many of our nation’s bridges are in disrepair. As local and state governments look to fund bridge replacement projects, contractors who can provide this service will bolster the strengthen of their bid proposals.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) notes that roughly 25 percent of our nation’s bridges (nearly 600,000) are in need of rehabilitation, repair, or replacement. That means there are roughly 150,000 potential bridge-related construction projects on the docket. Before accelerated bridge construction, the concern was that the impact of these projects on public mobility and safety would be too significant to implement effectively. The cost of facilitating traffic detours can be immense, sometimes surpassing the cost of the project itself. This concern is largely dissolving as more and more accelerated bridge construction projects produce successful, cost-effective, and safe outcomes.

Other Benefits of Accelerated Bridge Construction

When weighing the positives and negatives of accelerated bridge construction, it becomes apparent that the positives are varied and numerous, far outnumbering the negatives. Some other benefits of accelerated bridge construction include:

  • Accelerated bridge components are high-quality. Prefabricated elements are manufactured in controlled environments to ensure consistency and quality.
  • Contractors can earn increase revenue while decreasing time of work.
  • Installation can be performed in unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Reduced impact on scheduled transit and railroad times.
  • Lessened impact on the environment.
  • Streamlined permitting process as a result of greatly reduced impact durations.
  • Advances innovation and growth in the construction industry.

Accelerated bridge construction is an exciting development in the construction industry that promises to alter the way we build bridges for years to come. If you are interested in taking on contracts for bridge renovations, repairs, and replacements, consult our Orlando construction attorneys for more information about how you can submit a successful bid or protest a bid that wasn’t awarded to your firm. We can also assist you with contract review, dispute resolution, and OSHA defense.

If you would like to speak with an Orlando construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.