Charlottesville City minimizing traffic interruptions with new design method

The structurally deficient Dairy Road Bridge will be renovated using an approach that city public works officials say will save money and reduce traffic delays and construction time.

For the first time, the city will use a so-called design-build approach, in which construction or remodeling of an existing structure is done under contract, including design and construction of the structure. Historically, design work and construction work have been done by separate entities.

“The design-build process will minimize the impact on the community because when the designer is working with the contractor, part of what they’re going to do is come up with a traffic maintenance plan,” said Jerry, Transportation Project Manager. allen.

Previous city construction projects have been done under what’s called the design-bid-build process, which involves two separate entities completing the work rather than just one.

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The new approach generally allows the builder to start the project sooner by getting designs approved and completed more quickly with an in-house designer.

The design process to renovate the bridge, which spans the 250 Beltway, is scheduled to begin this July, according to a Jan. 5 city news release. The contractor will start sometime next summer once the design process is complete, Allen said.

Virginia and Charlottesville codes require the city to have a design-build consultant who is familiar with the procurement process to work with the city in bidding for and selecting a designer-contractor duo for the project and conduct preliminary research to support the project.

The Department of Public Works has already selected a design-build consultant to create a scope of work for future bidders, but the consultant’s contract has not yet been ratified, Allen said.

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The engineering division of Public Works in Charlottesville helped complete an analysis comparing design-build and design-bid-build methods. Public Works, the Office of the City Manager, and the Virginia Department of Transportation used the analysis to determine which approach would help meet the city’s goals to delay road closures, reduce costs, and reduce the design and construction schedule.

Officials decided to use the design-build method because of the projected lower costs and the ability to minimize traffic disruption. The approach is now used by nearly half of the project teams in the country, according to the Design-Build Institute of America.

According to a September 2021 inspection report, something needs to be done on the bridge. That report, the National Bridge Inventory, called the Dairy Street Bridge “structurally deficient.” The report found that the bridge’s railings, transitions, and handrails did not meet acceptable standards, while the deck received a “poor condition” assessment.

Charlottesville has been a design-bid-build city since 2006. The design-bid-build approach, also known as the traditional method, requires separate bids for contracts with a designer and the lowest-bid contractor, according to the release. As a result, the traditional method creates a longer timeline for project completion compared to the newer design-build method.

Allen said Public Works is considering keeping half of the bridge open to traffic, installing a traffic signal or issuing a full bridge closure as some ideas for a traffic maintenance plan.

Allen says Public Works and the design-build consultant for the project plan will post the bid for a designer-contractor team in May and award a contract 30 days after posting the bid online.

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