The “structurally deficient” Dairy Road Bridge will be revamped using an approach that city public works officials say will save money and cut traffic delays and construction time.
For the first time, the city will use the so-called design-build approach, in which the construction or remodeling of a structure is done under one contract that includes both the designing and building process. Historically, design work and construction work have been done by separate entities.
“The design-build process is going to 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 maintenance of traffic plan,” said Jerry Allen, a transportation project manager with the city.
The city’s previous construction projects have been done under what is called the design-bid-build process, which involves two separate entities completing the work rather than one.
The new approach typically allows the builder to begin the project earlier by getting designs approved and finalized more quickly with an in-house designer.
The design process to revamp the bridge, which spans the Route 250 Bypass, is scheduled to begin this July, according to a statement from the city dated Jan. 5. The contractor will break ground sometime next summer once the design process is complete, Allen said.
Virginia and Charlottesville codes require that the city has a design-build consultant who is familiar with the procurement process to work with the city to bid and select a designer-contractor duo for the project and conduct preliminary research to support the project.
The Public Works Department already has selected a design-build consultant to create a scope of work for future bidders, but the consultant’s contract has not been ratified yet, Allen said.
The engineering division of Public Works in Charlottesville helped complete an analysis comparing the 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 the time of road closures, cut costs and shrink the design and construction schedule, officials said.
Those officials said they decided to use the design-build method because of the projected lower costs and 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.
Based on a September 2021 inspection report, something has to be done to the bridge. According to the report produced by the National Bridge Inventory, the Dairy Street Bridge is “structurally deficient.” The report determined that the bridge’s railings, transitions and guardrails 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-bidding 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 that Public Works is considering keeping half of the bridge open to traffic, installing a traffic light or issuing a full closure of the bridge as some ideas for a maintenance of traffic plan.
Allen says Public Works and the design-build consultant on the project plan to post the bid for a designer and contractor team by May and will award a contract 30 days after posting the bid online.
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