September 20, 2023 | Articles
About 5 miles northwest of Trenton and 30 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Scudder Falls Bridge provides an important commuter and freight connection to both cities and the entire Northeast region as it was the original link for Interstate 95 over the Delaware River. More than 60,000 vehicles use the bridge to cross the river daily, and, according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, that number is expected to exceed 75,000 by 2030. However, at nearly 60 years old, designed to handle only 40,000 vehicles per day, and with a Level of Service grade of “F” during rush hours and afternoons, the existing ten-span bridge created frequent traffic and safety issues. Deficient interchange configurations and adjoining roadway on both sides of the river exacerbated these problems.
To alleviate congestion and upgrade safety and operations on Scudder Falls Bridge and the connecting segments of I-295, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) undertook the $396 million Scudder Falls Bridge Replacement project. This was the DRJTBC’s first completely new bridge in 30 years and the Commission’s largest ever bridge replacement. This project entailed the construction of two new bridge structures, one for eastbound and one for westbound traffic. The project also delivered roadway and interchange improvements on both sides of the river, a new bridge monitoring facility, and an all-electronic tolling (AET) system—a first for the DRJTBC.
As manager for the project, Hill International, Inc. customized a staffing approach to meet these challenges. Hill’s management staffing plan gave the DRJTBC optimized management coverage and has helped reduce rework, promote improved inter-project communications and efficiencies, and keep stakeholders informed during all project stages.
A Closer Look at a Complex Project
In total, the Scudder Falls Bridge project improved 4.4 miles of I-295 between the Route 332 Interchange in Pennsylvania and the Bear Tavern Road Interchange in New Jersey. At the core of the project was the bridge replacement. First, the project team built the upstream bridge structure, including three travel lanes, one auxiliary lane, left and right shoulders, and a pedestrian/bicycle pathway. All bridge traffic, eastbound and westbound, was diverted to the new upstream structure to allow for the closure and demolition of the old Scudder Falls Bridge, which was originally completed in 1959. Then, in the location of the former bridge, the team built a second bridge structure, including three travel lanes, two auxiliary lanes, and left and right shoulders. Once the second structure was completed, eastbound traffic was diverted from the upstream structure to the downstream structure.
To make tolling operations more efficient and ease traffic, the project also delivered the AET system—a gantry with lights, high-speed cameras, and E-ZPass tag readers. A new 5,000 SF, four-story bridge monitoring building serves as a nexus for bridge administration and AET system infrastructure, including utilities.
In Pennsylvania, the project widened the bridge’s I-295 approach, increased the roadway to three lanes in each direction, and reconstructed the Taylorsville Road Interchange. On the New Jersey side, the project improved drainage and approach-roadway exit/entry transitions and reconstructed the Route 29 Interchange with all-new roundabouts.
While reviewing the DRJTBC’s request for proposals, a team of Hill professionals along with partners from Jacobs Engineering Group and Joseph Jingoli & Son identified among the project’s complex and interlocking elements at several areas with the potential to significantly delay the project. These included: safely building in the river and addressing associated AHJ restrictions; the maintenance and protection of traffic, especially on the New Jersey side where the new roundabouts required major diversions; coordination among the three project areas (New Jersey roadwork and interchanges, Pennsylvania roadwork and interchanges, and the bridge itself); and utilities relocation into the AET building. Based on experience with the DRJTBC, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation, other bridge and highway projects, and projects working in and around a major body of water, the team devised a thorough technical approach, including a management staffing plan, to address these challenges and benefit the project.
A Customized Staffing Plan
After analyzing the project, the Hill team developed a management tailored to the challenges of the project. This plan diverged from DRJTBC’s management plan, which called for a part-time project manager (PM), a full-time senior resident engineer (SRE), three fulltime resident engineers (RE), and six assistant resident engineers (ARE), among other roles. Specifically, Hill suggested three changes to DRJTBC’s plan:
The suggestion to include a fulltime PM was critical, explains Jason Shaulis, PE, CCM, one of Hill’s resident engineers on the project: “With two bridge structures
over the Delaware, highway construction for miles on each side of the bridge, plus an AET system and facility, the internal project reporting and coordination alone warranted a full-time PM—not to mention addressing outside AHJ and stakeholder concerns, overseeing project documentation and correspondence, and confirming proper personnel assignments. Possibly the most important task for our PM was making certain each of the three project areas received the right information at the right time. We knew an experienced PM could serve as a central point of contact, communicate effectively across the whole project, take care of all reporting and coordination obligations, handle personnel assignments, and free up the rest of our team to focus on their work.”
Hill’s second staffing suggestion involved adding a fourth RE dedicated solely to utility, AET system, and facility work. The utility work associated with the project entailed relocations and service extensions with 18 different providers, each with the potential to impact construction and traffic flow. This work had to be completed to maintain schedule and begin toll collection as planned. For this reason, according to Shaulis, the project’s many temporary utility relocations, permanent relocations, and service extensions to the AET building required a dedicated presence.
To offset the cost of the extra RE and the full-time PM, Hill proposed using four full-time AREs, rather than six. Each ARE would assist one of the four REs, one pair for the Pennsylvania roadwork, one for the New Jersey roadwork, one for the bridge construction, and one for the utility/AET/facility work. This arrangement would reduce costs and provide sufficient coverage for any shift.
“We were also prepared to carry out the scope as originally specified but based on the collective experience of everyone who contributed, we knew these were sound ideas,” says Shaulis. “Of course, we put our plan out there prior to being hired, which was a bit of a risk—but now after five years of work, we know we made the right move.”
Successful Planning, Stronger Infrastructure: Conclusions for Today
This innovative staffing approach helped the team streamline service delivery, target identified areas of need, and reduce the number of total management staffing hours for the project. Now, the Scudder Falls Bridge Replacement project is approaching completion. “We’re very proud to have helped deliver this project for the Commission,” adds Shaulis. “Our ideas helped, but it was a collaborative effort by the DRJTBC and our team that made this project ultimately successful.”
With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on the horizon, owners and agencies throughout the U.S. have a generational opportunity to maintain and improve America’s critical infrastructure. Developing the right management approach for each unique construction project will be key to maximizing the benefit of this funding. Drawing on institutional experience with infrastructure projects around the globe and a deep pool of expert resources, the Hill team can customize staffing solutions for IIJA-funded infrastructure projects, regardless of their unique challenges or constraints, and position them for success from the outset.
Hill Resident Engineer Jason Shaulis,
PE, CCM, has more than 20 years of
construction management and civil
engineering experience on transportation
projects, including highway
construction, roadway rehabilitation
and total reconstruction, bridge repair
and replacement, and Intelligent
Transportation Systems installation. In
addition to the Delaware River Joint Toll
Bridge Commission, Jason has supported
projects for the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Commission and the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation.
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