Washington County Constructors

If a growing community is like a growing plant, an inadequate highway system can be like a kink in a garden hose. If local roads aren’t capable of handling the increased traffic flow of a growing city, valuable resources are prevented from reaching where they are needed, and the town can wither and die. That’s what makes projects like the Dixie Drive Interchange in St. George, Utah, so important.

Appropriately enough, a project of this importance requires experience, and that’s why joint venture Washington County Constructors (WCC) is on the scene. The joint venture is a collaboration between Utah-based bridge contractor Ralph L. Wadsworth and California-based road builder Granite Construction.

Ralph L. Wadsworth Project Manager Scott Wiscombe says the $60 million project is needed because of the growth in the area. “There’s been a lot of development in St. George,” he says, adding that it will provide easier access to some of the faster-developing areas.

The project involves the construction of a new single-point interchange bridge over I-15, four new bridges over the Santa Clara River and a new bridge over Convention Center Drive. The work also includes more than one mile of I-15 roadway and constructing Dixie Drive through Southgate Golf Course, along with relocating seven holes of the golf course and realigning two related intersections. Other work associated with this project includes a 2,500-foot sheet pile scour protection wall along the Santa Clara River and two large box culverts.

Quick Thinking

Single-point interchanges are known for their efficiency relative to the volume of traffic they can handle, which made the design a good fit for the Dixie Drive project. However, even though the single-point interchange is more compact than other layouts, space constrictions still proved to be an issue for the joint venture. With an existing interchange to the north and a river to the south, Wiscombe says, “making the interchange fit while maintaining the specified design/safety criteria was a design challenge.”

Fortunately, the combined experience of Ralph L. Wadsworth, Granite Construction and designer Horrock’s engineers meant the Dixie team had the expertise necessary to find a solution to the space constraints.

“There’s a lot of experience here, and many new and innovative ideas were considered,” Wiscombe says.

For example, the joint venture used shotcrete walls to provide needed width by maximizing existing space. Wiscombe says this process allowed ramp and collector roads to essentially remain in the most efficient configuration without the added expense and time of a braided ramp scenario. ”We are seeing and constructing more of this kind of space-saving construction in Utah,” he says.

The joint venture also has made special efforts to protect the roadway in a known flood zone on the work site. Wiscombe says the area already has experienced severe flooding recently, but even though the protection is only partially constructed, it prevented the roadway and adjacent businesses from becoming flooded. “Those efforts are panning out,” Wiscombe says. “The city, state and local businesses have benefitted from those efforts already.”

The other challenge created by the project has been to maintain a consistent traffic flow on a vital thoroughfare.

“It’s always a little bit of a challenge,” Wiscombe says, although he adds that the situation isn’t as congested as similar projects Ralph L. Wadsworth has completed in the Salt Lake City area. The joint venture is keeping two lanes of traffic open at all times on the Dixie Drive Interchange project, and Wiscombe says this is why the construction has been divided in to three different phases of freeway construction to meet this particular requirement.

“The traffic is not too bad, but there has been a lot of effort and constant vigilance in maintaining the traffic flow,” he says.

Joint Effort

Wiscombe reports that the joint venture is about halfway done building the structures for the project. Work began in July 2010 and will mostly be done this year. However, phasing necessitated by the need to keep traffic moving will bump some of the work out into 2012. According to WCC, the project is expected to be completed – including landscaping – by July 2012.

Wiscombe says the Dixie Drive Interchange is not the first project the joint venture of Ralph L. Wadsworth and Granite Construction has tackled together, and it likely will not be the last. He says the combination of skills the contractors bring to the table has been one of the primary reasons for the success of the project to date.

Ralph L. Wadsworth has been building throughout the western half of the United States since 1975. The company says a team approach is part of its corporate culture. “This approach results in a dedicated and hardworking workforce that will pitch in to see a project completed successfully and on time,” the company says. “The lengthy tenure of many of key employees is not only a tribute to the company, but benefits the project owner when a seasoned team is building their project. Our entire company works as a team and takes great pride in our projects and the Ralph L. Wadsworth name.”

Granite Construction works throughout the United States, and has been providing construction services since 1922. “We are best known for transportation infrastructure projects including roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, mass transit facilities and airports,” the company says. “Granite also produces sand, gravel, ready-mix and asphalt concrete and other construction materials. Unusual among large contractors, Granite is equally effective at building both large and small jobs from small site developments to massive billion-dollar federal projects.”

Other key members of the Dixie Drive Interchange project team include Most Wanted Drilling LLC, Gerber Construction and JP Excavating Inc.

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