It has been a busy year for road construction. Partnerships between developing and developed countries have created roads that link up regions and reduce poverty, and innovative, environmentally-friendly techniques have won industry awards, broken records and seen state-of-the-art technology implemented around the world. Here, we document what we think are some of the defining projects for 2009 that will help pave the way for regional
prosperity in 2010.

America’s Award-winning Washington Bypass

This year Flatiron and United joined forces to design and build a highway in Washington for The North Carolina Department of Transportation. The development – the largest design-build project in North Carolina – made headlines for its environmental and innovative award-winning construction.

With a revenue of more than $1bn in 2008, Flatiron is one of North America’s leading providers of transportation construction and civil engineering and its $192m Washington Bypass project commenced in March 2007. The road stretches from Price Road (State Road 1149) to Springs Road (State Road 1509) in Beaufort County and features 6.8 miles of four-lane highway over environmentally sensitive terrain. It also includes two major
interchanges and one three-mile bridge over the Pimlico-Tar river.

The design and construction of the Tar River Bridge required a careful approach to ensure that the construction footprint across the wetlands was minimal. As a result a patented version of the top-down construction technique was employed, which meant the company took a significant financial risk in order to implement an environmentally-conscious construction method. It paid off, however, and the project received an award for environmental excellence from the Federal Highway Administration.

“The company took a significant financial risk in order to implement an environmentally-conscious construction method.”

The process itself consists of two self-contained gantries that perform all the bridge construction tasks, including driving 124ft-long precast piles, erecting 121ft-long precast girders and 50-ton bent caps and deck pouring operations. It is the world’s first application of the pile driving operation from an erection gantry.

As the method reduces costs and time, the team should complete ahead of schedule.

“Our top-down, pile-driving gantry system worked very well and has already completed installing all 128 spans of bridge components,” Mark Mallett, project supervisor for Flatiron/United, told the Washington Daily News. “All efforts are being made to complete the entire project ahead of the November 2010 contract completion date.”

This new method has used state-of-the-art technology to reduce the need for vegetation clearing. Working from the ground, boats and temporary cofferdams were used for constructing the substructure. Its forward-thinking and successful development attracted the attention of the Construction Innovation Forum (CIF) in November 2009, when it was presented with the prestigious NOVA award in November 2009.

Ireland’s Record Breaking Suir Bridge

This year the Republic of Ireland broke a record for constructing the longest single bridge span. Under the government’s Transport21 programme the 230m cable-stayed Suir Bridge, which opened on 19 October 2009 some 10 months ahead of schedule, took the title from the Boyne River Bridge.

The construction formed part of the N25 Waterford Bypass project and consists of 23.1km of dual carriageway, 9.6km of single carriageway and 60 structures including ten overbridges, 11 underbridges, eight underpasses and a five-lane toll plaza and three viaducts.

This joint venture for the National Roads Authority was carried out by Ascon Ltd and Dragados and started in April 2006 and is the result of 40 years of campaigning. Numerous studies over the years have shown that Waterford City required a second bridge – now the area will see the growth in business and tourism that it has been seeking for so long. It also means that motorists’ journeys will be reduced by at least 20 minutes
when travelling between Cork and Rosslare.

Approximately 14,000 vehicles a day will use the Waterford Bypass and traffic volumes currently using Rice Bridge will be reduced by about 30%, which will remove some 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles each day from the city’s quays.

“This will have the added benefit of allowing us to rejuvenate our city along the quays to the maximum commercial advantage,” explained Martin Cullen, the minister for arts, sport and tourism in a statement.

Australia’s EastLink Excellence

On the other side of the world Australia’s largest infrastructure project at the time of construction – Melbourne’s EastLink project – was making headlines of its own. Although completed in 2008 – six months ahead of the contractual completion date – this AUS$2.5bn project was declared Australia’s most outstanding example of construction excellence at the Australian Construction Achievement
Awards (ACAA) this year.

The financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of this 39km motorway was carried out by a Thiess John Holland joint venture over three years and is now operated by ConnectEast. The construction required 7 million cubic metres of earth to be moved, 1.3 million tons of asphalt, 1.6km of tunnels, 88 bridges, a world class tolling system and over 3.6 million trees. According to Thiess John Holland’s project director Gordon Ralph the project involved using “innovative work practices to overcome engineering, logistical, technical, fabrication, community and environmental challenges.”

“Approximately 14,000 vehicles a day will use the Waterford Bypass and traffic volumes currently using Rice Bridge will be reduced by about 30%.”

The two tunnels (named Melba and Mullum Mullum in a national competition) running under the valley are each 1.6km long. They contain three 3.5km-wide lanes with safety systems linking directly to the EastLink Control Centre – making the initial response time to an incident less than two minutes. A study released recently by Integration Management Information Systems (IMIS) for ConnectEast, shows that EastLink “continues to consistently deliver significant time and fuel savings to motorists using the tollway”. It cites a 40% saving compared with the alternative Springvale Road and Stud Road, which equates to around 20 minutes. These benefits are now enjoyed by motorists making over 160,000 trips each day.

The project was described as exceptional by the ACAA judging panel. This is because it successfully navigates the environmentally sensitive area of the Mullum Mullum Valley will improve traffic flow and deliver World Road Association (PIARC) standards with world class safety features making it one of the safest highways in Victoria. Not only that but according to Tim Pall, the minister for roads and ports, it’s on target to “deliver AU$15m in economic benefits to the state”.

Britain’s A14 Award

In February 2009 the UK’s A14 Haughley New Street to Stowmarket improvement scheme was completed ahead of schedule. The 3.5km road, for which construction involved moving around 275,000 cubic metres of earth, straightens out the ‘Haughley Bends’, a notorious accident black spot. Junction locations and poor alignment made for reduced visibility and the improvement work was planned to improve journey time and improve
safety. Highways

“The A14 Haughley New Street to Stowmarket improvement scheme has removed a substandard section of road with an accident rate significantly higher than the national average. The new dual carriageway will improve safety and journey time reliability,” said Agency project manager Mike Povey.

The contract was awarded to Birse Civils and new plant technology from local company Lancaster Earthmoving, brought three years of machine control experience to the table. As a result of using GPS technology to position blades, machinery could be placed extremely accurately through on-site dozer systems. Positioning sensors were used to compute the exact position then corrections were transmitted from a Trimble SPS851 Base Station. The
position is then compared to the design to ascertain the fill or cut to grade via on on-board computer.

“The Highways Agency has acknowledged the superb finish that we have achieved here. For us, this really is value engineering at its best.” says Birse’s David Huckstep.

The Institution of Highways and Transportation also recognised the expertise involved in bringing this standard of technology to the construction of this carriageway and in June Birse Civils was presented with the IHT/Colas award for technological application.

Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Rehabilitation

In the developing world, two large-scale projects, one in Sri Lanka and one in Cape Verde, were completed this year with the help of the EU and America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) respectively.

“The Highways Agency has acknowledged the superb finish that we have achieved here. For us, this really is value engineering at its best.”

In September 2009, ahead of schedule, the 158km main and coastal and inland road running from Matara to Wellawaya was complete – creating a new landmark as the country’s infrastructure is gradually developed. It required widening, improvement of drains over 46km and 190 culverts, construction of eight new bridges, reonstruction of 29 bridges and road elevation. The road was also strengthened by an asphalt concrete

The rehabilitation of this road required a €28.7m grant and was totally funded by the EU, which makes up part of its €147m Tsunami package to Sri Lanka. It will bring greater road safety and reduced travel time to cyclists and pedestrians and play a big part in the restoration of the economy by encouraging industry development, such as agriculture and telecommunications into the south.

Orgãos to Pedra Badejo in Cape Verde

The development of the Orgãos to Pedra Badejo road roject in Cape Verde, although relatively short at 10km (and 6m wide), was absolutely vital if the country was going to improve economically and poverty be reduced. It is MCC’s first completed road under its contract with Cape Verde and was completed in June 2009.

The road construction forms part of MCC’s US$110m contract with Cape Verde and it is estimated the road will help over 12,500 farmers and families. Previous to this development, the road was constructed from cobblestone, causing pain to those travelling on it. It would also be inaccessible during bad weather, necessitate long daily commutes and was dangerously dark at night. Since the work, people can travel quickly, take public transport and even use the road at night as it’s lit, increasing trade and new business possibilities.

Rodney Bent, the acting chief executive officer for MCC said: “This road reflects the friendship between the United States and Cape Verde, and a shared commitment to creating greater opportunities for economic growth and prosperity.”