2010 Top 10 Roads - No. 5

Oct. 6, 2011
RECONSTRUCTING THE PAST - Work blends needed updates with historical appeal
PROJECT: East Genesee Avenue Reconstruction and Streetscape
LOCATION: Saginaw, Mich.
OWNER: City of Saginaw, Mich.
DESIGNER: Spicer Group Inc.
CONTRACTOR: Pamar Enterprises Inc.
COST: $5 million
START DATE: March 8, 2010
COMPLETION DATE: Aug. 27, 2010

The East Genesee Avenue Reconstruction and Streetscape in the heart of Saginaw, Mich., officially began on March 8, 2010; but the project—set to finish up this month—is years in the making. From this month back to when funding was secured back in 2005, then dating all the way back to the original 1850 wood-plank road that was uncovered and preserved, the timeline on this project runs especially long.

The road had been constructed by the city’s founder, thus the city worked with local historians on that component. The pavement on this job is a five-lane concrete road curb-and-gutter. It is 9 in. of reinforced concrete over 8 in. of crushed limestone and a foot of Class 2 sand. It includes Michigan Department of Transportation Standard P1 mix.

Designed by Spicer Group Inc. and contracted to Pamar Enterprises Inc., the job totaled $5 million.

“The greatest challenge was the funding, trying to combine the funding,” Phillip Karwat, project manager, told Roads & Bridges. This project started back in 2005 with an earmark and came together initially when the city of Saginaw received in the 2006 appropriation bill a $1 million earmark to just do streetscaping.

“The big concern I had was that the road was one of the worst roads in the city of Saginaw, especially down in the downtown area. So it wouldn’t have made any sense to just go out and spend a million dollars to try to streetscape around a five-lane road that probably rated a 1 on the Pazer rating that we use to rate our streets.”

Ultimately, funding from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 made the project what it is today, Karwat said.

“Just by chance a year or two ago I was getting ready to cut this project back, and then Obama announced the stimulus package, so I was able to pull some of that money together,” Karwat said.

The other challenge was working in an old downtown with unknowns under the road, Karwat said. One thing he did not anticipate was running into so much old steam line.

“The city of Saginaw had old steam heat and then all these lines are wrapped in this asbestos,” he said. “On the subgrade we ran into all kinds of things . . . It was just stiff clay so we just excavated for the cross-section and we did run into some old steam pipes that were wrapped in asbestos that were actually in our subgrade, so we had to remove them.

“Many of the utility companies did replacements but because of the shallow depth of a lot of the other pipes that were in the ground, they put in all their new utilities really shallow, too, so we had to work around a lot of concrete ducts and it’s been extremely challenging.”

Still, the biggest hurdles came down to funding and working with the community and businesses to get them to understand that the only way to rebuild the road was by shutting it down.

“Retrofitting that old of an infrastructure into an updated system wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s full cooperation,” said Paul Acciavatti, president of Pamar Enterprises Inc. “We’ve worked with other municipalities on projects of this size and magnitude and they don’t typically flow as smoothly.” 

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