For GTF JV, a joint venture of Granite Construction Northeast, Traylor Bros. and Frontier Kemper, the East Side Access project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Company (MTA CCC) is much more than just a normal railroad project. “The overall program has been [in] design for more than 40 years,” Project Executive Stephen Price declares.
Originally, the MTA developed the project with the goal of connecting the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Port Washington lines in Queens, N.Y., to a new LIRR terminal underneath the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. According to the MTA, this will increase LIRR’s capacity into the city and shorten travel times for commuters.
“Right now, most of Long Island Rail Road’s passengers go to New York’s Pennsylvania Station,” Price says. Although the construction work started on the first portion of the project in the late 1960s, it stopped due to difficulties with funding.
Now that the proper funding is in place, construction has continued and GTF is building the last major tunnel sections of the project under a $740 million contract.
“These tunnels take the underground tunnels that start in Manhattan to the surface in Queens,” Price describes.
GTF’s work is to construct 10,400 linear feet of soft ground tunnels, underneath the Sunnyside Yard in Queens.
“We started [construction] in September 2009,” Price says, noting that GTF expects to be finished by early 2013. “We’re a little more than 50 percent done now.”
He adds that although Granite is the sponsor of the joint venture of this project, this is not Granite’s first project for the MTA. “We have done quite a bit of work for the transit authority in particular,” he says, adding that the project falls under the MTA Capital Construction Company. According to Price, Granite is proud to take on a project of such magnitude. “East Side Access is the largest transportation construction project going on in the country right now,” he says.
The East Side Access Project has had its share of challenges for Granite, Price admits. “Tunneling is always a challenge,” he states. “That never changes.
“In this case, we’re building four soft ground tunnels under a major rail yard,” he says, adding that GTF maintains close coordination with the railroads that use Sunnyside Yard. “We’re also using slurry shields, which is the first time these have been used in New York City.”
Safety also remains an important concern for the company, as it works “underground in confined spaces,” Price says. “There are all sorts of hazards in tight spaces.
“We have a very proactive safety program,” he stresses, noting that this includes working closely with MTA Capital Construction. “We have [also] dedicated a lot of time to safety training and safety meetings with the crews [that are longer than] the five or 10 minute safety briefings.”
Instead, the company has dedicated half of a workday to discuss safety related topics. Although GTF has been quite successful in maintaining a safe operation, “We still have issues that come up from time to time,” Price admits. “We address them and we’re always policing ourselves to try and prevent it.”
Building a Leader
Based in Watsonville, Calif., Granite Construction says it is one of the nation’s largest heavy civil contractors and construction materials producers. The company was incorporated in 1922 and today serves public and private sector clients.
After all these years, Granite says it is best known for its transportation infrastructure work, such as roads, highways, tunnels, bridges and airports. “Granite also produces sand, gravel, ready-mix and asphalt concrete, and other construction materials,” it states.
Unlike other competitors, Granite says it is successful at building a broad range of work, including small site developments and billion dollar federal projects. “In the very best sense of this tradition, we aspire to be master builders,” the company says.
“Through our extensive employee development initiative, we are building exceptional leaders,” the company states. “They, in turn, have built strong partnerships with a host of suppliers, subcontractors, banks, insurance companies, surety companies and as a result of our nationally recognized partnering program, with customers as well.”
Price praises his team at GTF, as well as the subcontractors it utilized in the East Side Access project. “We’ve got quite a few specialty subcontractors,” Price says. “There’s quite a bit of jet grouting that has been done, which is ground treatment to control ground water.” Granite’s partners on the project include Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers and Brookville Equipment Corp.
Price says he is confident that Granite will continue to keep busy. “There’s always more projects,” he says. “[But] the market is certainly changing right now. We’re at a point now where the major tunneling projects have been [finished]. We’re seeing smaller contracts and more rehabilitation contracts right now rather than new construction.”
He adds that Granite is paying close attention to the future of infrastructure funding. “In the immediate future, the funding is limited,” Price explains. “We have work to bid, but there are less opportunities than we’ve seen in the recent past. There are a few larger projects that we have in the next few years that we’ve set our sights on,” he says. “We’re [also] hoping the federal government will spend more on infrastructure. That’s what this country needs.”