Designing and constructing a roadway in a rapidly growing residential area with an elementary and high school poses significant challenges, especially with community buy-in. Discover how an engineering firm, a construction business, and a state department of transportation not only gained support, but also community advocates.
The construction of the Mountain Valley Corridor began in 2012. Image Credit: Garrett via Flickr
West Valley City, a predominantly residential community just outside of Salt Lake City, is the second largest city in Utah. In order to accommodate rapid growth of this suburban area, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) decided to construct a freeway in phases to ensure sufficient funding for the project. While the 35 mile roadway will eventually connect Interstate 80 in Salt Lake City to State Route 73 in Utah County, the Mountain Valley Corridor is a 2.5 mile greenfield roadway passing through a suburban area and in front of both an elementary school and high school. As such, in addition to meeting the stringent requirements set forth by the UDOT, the engineering and construction team needed to secure public buy-in to the project, especially since their incentive payments for the project required 95 percent satisfaction ratings from the community. How did these contractors meet and surpass the challenges posed by this project?
UDOT Requirements for the Mount View Corridor Project
The UDOT required the engineers to design a roadway that could be easily converted a freeway in the future. Image Credit: Utah Department of Transportation
Some of the UDOT requirements for Mountain Valley Corridor, as described by two of the design-build principals working on the project in Civil and Structural Engineer, included the following:
- The project should not impede the walk, drive, and shop style of life that residents of West Valley City enjoy on a daily basis.
- The safety of both drivers and pedestrians is a top priority for the project, especially since a multi-use trail parallels the roadway.
- Since the road is actually a waypoint in the process of building a freeway, the intersections must have a design that will easily facilitate conversion to highway interchanges in the future.
The design-build team of Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Company, Staker Parsons Companies along with the engineering firm Michael Baker International submitted a winning bid for this project along with a strategy to garner community support for this project.
Engineering a Strategy for the Mountain Valley Corridor Roadway
The key design elements for the Mountain View Corridor greenfield roadway employed by the engineering team include the following:
- In order to maintain the integrity of the community, the engineering plan called for the construction of seven bridges that directed vehicle traffic over residential neighborhoods as opposed to through them. Additionally, the design included bridge access to the high school in an effort to ensure student safety.
- The seven pedestrian bridges included in the roadway design permitted residents to safely access the Utah and Salt Lake Canal Trail, a 27 mile network of multi use nature paths through Utah County.
- Since the design required a bridge for every 1000 feet of road, there was not enough room to return the road to the existing grade. Instead, the road sits 25 feet above grade buttressed by retaining walls.
- To provide significant cost savings, the engineers directed the construction team to reuse the more than one million cubic yards of soil removed to build the road in other areas of the project.
- The engineers created a girder layout and spacing plan that would accommodate road widening work in the future.
The American Council of Engineering Companies Utah Awards recognized the engineering team by selecting them for the Merit Award in Engineering for not only the design of the Mountain Valley Corridor but also the strategies the team used to garner community support for the project.
Engineering Community Trust and Support
The above video is just one example of how the UDOT supported the engineering and construction team in their efforts to gain community support and engagement for the Mountain Valley Corridor project. Some of the ways the engineers gained not only public support and advocacy for their project included:
- Holding regular meetings with the residents during the planning stages so their suggestions could be included in the design of the project.
- Avoiding and mitigating construction work near residential walking routes and homes.
- Disseminating construction schedules at schools and held presentations at school assemblies.
- With support from the UDOT, a community resolution board visited the construction site to view the progress of the project and have their questions about the project answered. The board members then shared their findings with the community via various social media channels.
The collaboration among the engineers, construction team, UDOT, and community members made the Mountain Valley corridor project a success for all stakeholders.
How do you engage the community in your transportation engineering projects?