Launch Slideshow

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Infrastructure Construction & Maintenance

Infrastructure Construction & Maintenance

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    Day 2: Several weeks before McMullen Booth Road closed, CSXT crews assembled the entire replacement track off of the existing tracks. The resulting 336 linear feet of #146 rail and ties, welded and anchored together as a single piece, weighed nearly 10 tons. After removing the old rail bed, CSXT crews and the county contractor's three track excavators moved the new assembly into place. This process took just a few hours, whereas assembling the track in-place takes weeks. Photos: Pinellas County

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    Days 7 and 8. Before construction, CSXT established the theoretical proposed elevation of the new rails, which are designed based on the new roadway approaches. The final profile grade can deviate from the elevation by as many as 6 inches. The closer the actual final elevation of the railroad is to the theoretical elevation, the less redesign is required for the roadway approaches, eliminating delays. After the new ballast was compacted, CSXT used a vibratory leveling machine with infrared laser technology to set the final profile grade of the new rails, saving more time.

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    Days 9-11. The original full-depth rubber crossing had deteriorated to asphalt patches. The replacement called for installing rail seal and prefabricated concrete panels between the rails and 2 feet outside the rails. After the panels were installed, the county's contractor poured in place 5-foot-wide reinforced concrete aprons adjacent to the panels. CSXT shaved two to four days off the duration of the road closure by using high-early-strength (HES) concrete, which reaches 3,000 psi in 24 hours.

TEAMWORK GETS RESULTS

The potential for countywide gridlock was great. McMullen Booth Road is a designated evacuation route, so the timing of the road closure would be critical to public safety. Construction was slated to begin in mid-May 2007, when most schools would be out of session, traffic volumes are at their lowest, and the threat of hurricanes still was low.

The best defenses against a potential transportation nightmare were a well-informed public and cooperation among the jurisdictional entities affected by the road closure. The notification process was implemented in three phases.

The first was a multijurisdictional coordination meeting held eight months before construction that included public officials from surrounding municipalities, representatives from public transportation, emergency services, sheriff, police, school board transportation, FDOT, and CSXT.

Next, several county departments developed a public notification plan that included:

  • Direct mail showing alternate routing to 5,000 households directly affected by the closure or the detour route
  • An insert in utility bills to 110,000 households
  • Face-to-face visits by staff to businesses affected by the closure
  • One-on-one appointments with large private or public entities that would be significantly affected by the proposed construction
  • Location-specific notices mailed to households that would have direct ingress/egress limitations due to detour routing
  • All available resources such as the Pinellas County Government Web site, Pinellas 18 TV, a county e-mail news service, and reverse 911
  • Public service announcements and regular media releases
  • A dedicated hotline with a recorded outgoing information option or that transfered to a live county representative 24 hours a day
  • Variable-message boards that showed dates of closure and an information number placed at 27 intersections around the closure site 30 days before construction.
  • Finally, CSXT and county crews developed a four-step plan to minimize the duration of the road closure: assemble the new track off of the existing tracks rather than assembling it in place, devote an ancillary work train solely to running across the new tracks and ballast several times daily to expedite compaction of the new ballast, set the final rail profile with infrared technology to improve accuracy and save time, and install prefabricated 3,000-psi concrete panels to replace the full-depth rubber crossing.

    TIME IS MONEY

    McMullen Booth Road closed after the evening rush hour at 9 p.m. Friday, May 25, 2007—the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Although residents criticized the timing, the county decided that having a few days to tweak traffic control systems before the crush of daily routine traffic began again would ultimately benefit everyone involved.

    Public works traffic engineers stood by at critical detour intersections with handheld control devices and were guided by the department's traffic control monitors observing from a Sheriff's Department helicopter. Throughout the closure, the county employed 1,500 hours of uniformed off-duty sheriff's officers for traffic control at key intersections, and county staff handled more than 4,000 calls to the information hotline.

    Originally, consulting engineer TBE Group Inc. planned for a 21-day road closure in addition to 12 days of partial-road opening via temporary traffic lanes. But the planning and cooperation between the agencies allowed the entire project to be completed in just 13 days. The additional costs of the contractor's overtime, additional variable-message boards, and off-duty uniformed traffic control were nearly offset by the savings in material that would have been used to reroute traffic.

    Three weeks later, a second grade crossing was replaced on a major east-west arterial roadway using the same techniques with similar results. This cooperative project-management approach will be used on all subsequent crossing improvements.

    — McKibben is project manager in the Civil/Site Engineering Division of Pinellas County Public Works in Florida.