The Provo Westside Connector project, created in partnership with H.W. Lochner, recently received the ENR (Engineering News-Record) Mountain States 2017 Best Projects Award in the Highways and Bridges category.
Provo’s Westside Connector, now named Lakeside Parkway, is a new five-lane road that offers direct access from I-15 at University Avenue in Provo to the Provo Municipal Airport. Over the next 25 years, Provo City and its residents face major hurdles in keeping up with the enormous population growth. One of the hurdles was developing better access to the Provo Municipal Airport, which could only be accessed through Center Street, a main business and residential roadway. Deemed a project that would help boost the economy, the Westside Connector was one of 14 infrastructure projects nationwide that were expedited for environmental review and permitting by the Obama administration in 2011.
“This was a great project for Horrocks and Provo City,” said Larry Reasch, Horrocks Engineers’ Project Manager. “We worked hard to understand the transportation needs of the community and to design a facility that mitigated impacts to the sensitive environment of the lakeside area, while providing value to the economy and people using the new facility.”
The new roadway increases regional mobility to the growing neighborhoods in southwest Provo and opens the entire west side of the valley to further residential and commercial expansion. Provo High School will soon be relocated to this area, and additional retail and residential development is expected to follow, creating jobs and improving the local economy. Since the opening of the roadway, the Provo Municipal Airport has already experienced an increase in flight bookings as a result of the more direct route and easy access from the freeway.
The success of this project was a result of strong partnering and support from many different sources. During the 24 months for completion, the team had opportunities to work with UDOT, the Provo City Mayor, Provo City Council, City Engineering staff, special interest groups, and local citizens. With strong teamwork and trust between the partners, they overcame challenging issues and delivered an important piece of infrastructure for the area.
There were many elements at play that created technical challenges for the project. Limited by a tight budget, the team had to collaborate and create solutions for issues concerning impacts to surrounding wetlands, impacts to property owners and adjacent neighborhoods, poor soils, and stormwater flooding.
To mitigate wetland impacts, our team worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop or enhance 30 acres of new and existing wetlands and took care to adjust the contours of the mitigation site to optimize water retention. This mitigation site also included construction of a raptor nesting platform for local birds.
Building an arterial through a wetland area — especially one with anticipated heavy travel — was a challenge from the start. Poor subsurface soil conditions required the use of geotextiles, wick drains, surcharge, and wire face walls. To drain the area and lower the groundwater pressure, over 1,000 perforated wick drains were installed in a 53,000-linear-foot area, then covered with four to eight feet of overburden to push the soil down and drain the water. In eight months, more than three feet of settlement was recorded. The remaining surcharge was removed and construction proceeded once piezometer readings confirmed that the soil settlement had leveled out with no more than one inch of future settlement expected to occur after construction. Aside from the roadway, calculating the degree of future settlement was important when constructing culverts, stormwater structures, and ditch piping. It was essential to calibrate how much camber was needed for the piping to settle concurrently with the soil.
Another challenge faced by the project team was access to the construction site, which could only be reached via residential neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this meant that for many months all the materials, equipment, and people that needed access to the project and the airport, also had to travel through these areas each day. The team took care to mitigate dust and noise and to avoid schools in an effort to cause as little disruption and inconvenience as possible.
The project physically cut several operating livestock farms in half. To accommodate farming operations, access roads and gates were built into affected properties. Regularly during construction, all operations were shut down and farmers were given assistance in moving their cattle back and forth across the site.
A unique screw lift station was installed to prevent stormwater flooding in a low section of road where the new connector tied into existing side roads. The mechanized screw lift is activated when stormwater levels reach a set height. When this height is reached, the screw lift propels the water 10 feet up and drops it into a culvert that runs to nearby Utah Lake.
With a design plan that allowed for half of the roadway to be constructed, with the other half planned for future construction, the team optimized their resources by using the surcharge and embankment material from the first half of the project to create a foundation for the second half. This benefited the client by creating forward compatibility for design elements, which will reduce future costs.
For aesthetics, it was important to weave the roadway into its surrounding environment, and preserve the area’s existing natural beauty. The design team coordinated with the City to match materials to the surrounding area and planned for the restoration of any impacted landscaping at the end of the project. Large, attractive gabion baskets constructed with rust-colored wire and filled with an architectural cobble form retaining walls up to 14 feet tall on either side of the roadway near the I-15 interchange, and the concrete headwalls were stained rather than painted to meet the City’s architectural requirements. These subtle architectural features running the length of the roadway now create pleasing aesthetics that do not distract from the natural environment.
Trails and trailheads were built to create a natural flow between the community, infrastructure, and the surrounding natural environment. The team remained very mindful of the changes that they had made to the existing intersection or landscaped areas and worked to restore the previous landscape where possible. An enclosed drainage system and drainage retention facilities were designed to control and treat water running off the roadway before entering the Provo River, Utah Lake, or surrounding wetlands.
Earlier this year, Horrocks Engineers was recognized by ENR as a top-ranking firm in several sectors, both regionally and nationally. Horrocks placed first in Civil Engineering, second in Transportation Engineering and sixth in Structural Engineering in the Intermountain West, and was recognized as ranking in the top 500 engineering firms in the United States, placing 276. Considering there are around 82,500 engineering and architecture firms in the United States, Horrocks is proud and grateful for their current ranking.