2011 Top 10 Roads - No. 5

Nov. 6, 2011
Getting it done - early -- A South Carolina road construction project finishes before its deadline despite many obstacles
PROJECT:  I-385 Rehabilitation
LOCATION:  Laurens, S.C.
OWNER:  South Carolina DOT
DESIGNER:  South Carolina DOT
CONTRACTOR:  McCarthy Improvement Co.
COST:  $50 million
START DATE:  January 2010
The I-385 rehabilitation in Laurens, S.C., was a 14.6-mile road construction project that had to be completed in only eight months because of road-closing constraints—a tight deadline, made tighter because of challenges like weather delays and unexpected terrain conditions. Despite this, the project actually ? nished 24 days early.
Preparation, especially development of a rigid schedule, was key in shaving time off the project completion, Nick Wolf of McCarthy Improvement Co., the contractor, told ROADS & BRIDGES.
“We went through about 200-300 iterations of the initial schedule,” Wolf said. 
McCarthy also conducted extensive interviews with subcontractors and chose those who were willing to commit to multiple crews working multiple shifts, Wolf said.
“The key factor was being able to work on every available portion of the project on any given day and to not have a portion of the project that wasn’t touched when it was 
available,” he said.
Despite diligent planning, the weather cannot be controlled. During January to July 2010 construction, the crews dealt with three snowstorms and 110 rain days, including two 25-year rain events.
“This really put a strain on all the earthwork and other weather-dependent items,” Wolf said. “We had to increase the work force. We went from two crews to seven crews near the end.”
Another unforeseen issue was the terrain. Wolf said after they cleared the heavily wooded area along the roadway, the majority of the roadway was a straight drop-off from the edge of the shoulder down to the slopes, making it unsafe for drivers.
“We weren’t expecting the condition of the existing slopes,” he said. “We ended up having to do a whole rebuild of the slopes over the whole 15 miles of the project.”

The preparation and extra effort paid off in the end when the project ? nished early, Wolf said.
“I think this can demonstrate to the industry how successful future projects can be and how much money can be saved with a good partnering, teamwork effort,” Wolf said.

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