Bizzack Construction LLC – Route 460 Connector Phase 1

The two large twin bridges that make up the bulk of the Route 460 Connector Phase 1 project in Buchanan County, Va., are unique to the region in several ways. At 250 feet in height and 1,700 linear feet in length, the bridges – which extend U.S. Route 460 over Virginia Route 610 and Grassy Creek just south of the Virginia/Kentucky border – will be the tallest in the state when fully completed in 2015.

General contractor Bizzack Construction of Lexington, Ky., has a $97 million design/build contract for the bridges and related work, at the time the largest design/build contract in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s history. Design/build projects are relatively new to the Virginia Department of Transportation, Bizzack’s client. “The department felt they could get the best value for the project by completing it as a design/build,” Project Manager Stewart Gaither says.

Bizzack was awarded the contract in 2009, and began excavation and construction work in 2011. A cast-in-place balanced segmental construction method is being used on both cantilever bridges. “We looked into several different alternatives for the design and realized this was the most economical,” Gaither notes. “This method allowed us to minimize the number of piers used, and we didn’t have to worry about bringing in large steel girders or precast beams.”

Bridge contractor C.J. Mahan Construction Co. set up a ready-mix concrete plant on site to provide concrete for the structures.  The bridges’ location in steep terrain in the Appalachian Mountains restricted the amount of materials that could be trucked in making cast-in-place construction the most favorable. The site is also not located near permanent ready-mix concrete plants, Gaither says.

Overcoming Challenges

The project’s location posed other challenges including its proximity to the Pine Mountain Thrust Fault. “During the design phase, we knew the bridge would be spanning the fault, so that had to be taken into consideration,” Gaither says, noting that the bridges were engineered so that none of the five piers each bridge sits on was located directly on the fault.

Bizzack Construction also took great care in preserving or replacing natural habitats impacted by the project. This included habitat and stream restoration projects.

Finding qualified local labor was also a challenge. “Building this type of bridge requires skilled employees, not many of whom live in the immediate area,” Gaither explains. “We tried to incorporate local labor whenever possible, but most of the time we had to hire people from all over the country experienced in this sort of cantilever construction.”

Improving the quality of the area’s workforce is one of the economic goals for the project as a whole. The two bridges will connect to a new nearly one-mile long, four-lane divided highway portion of Route 460 starting at the Virginia-Kentucky border. Other improvements include an access ramp from Route 460 to U.S. Route 80, which includes a smaller bridge crossing Route 768. Connector roads are also being built to other state routes.

The new roads and connectors will replace old, single-lane rural routes. “The state wants to provide a good transportation infrastructure for the area, making it easier for people here to commute to jobs or bringing jobs into the area,” Gaither says.

Putting the Client First

The size and complexity of the project and the contractor’s ability to keep the project progressing on time earned it national recognition recently. Roads and Bridges magazine ranked the project as the “top bridge project in North America” in 2013 based on challenges, scope and impact to the region.

“Terrain, a bridge construction method that is new to southwestern Virginia, as well as coordination efforts with multiple agencies, contractors and another state DOT, make this project unique on many fronts,” VDOT Bristol District Administrator Michael Russell said in a statement. “We have an excellent team both within VDOT and the contracting industry who show great dedication to providing a quality product to this region.” 

Coordinating civil construction projects is the specialty of Bizzack Construction. Most of the company’s projects are publicly funded road construction efforts. “We understand that the state is our client, and never forget that they are the people we’re working for,” Gaither says. “We try to give all our clients what they want, which is a quality project delivered on time and in a safe manner. We pride ourselves on getting along well with our clients.”

The company also prides itself on relationships with its subcontractors. On this project, the most prominent of those subcontractors is C.J. Mahan Construction Company,LLC, based in Grove City, Ohio. The firm specializes in heavy civil engineering projects including developing and rehabilitating bridges, water treatment facilities, locks and dams. 

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