During the late 19th Century, Texas cattlemen started pushing their longhorns along the Chisholm Trail to reach the Kansas rail heads. Little did these trailblazers realize that their efforts to drive cattle northward to market would ultimately influence transportation infrastructure in the state. Now, more than a century later, HDR and its collaborative team are helping the North Texas Tollway Authority, Texas Department of Transportation, and the city of Fort Worth to design an interchange to drive people along the routes of this founding cattle trail. The objective of the $925 million, 8.2-mile, six-lane Southwest Parkway is to improve regional mobility by relieving growing traffic congestion in the greater Fort Worth area. The Southwest Parkway is tentatively scheduled to open in late 2010.
A growing population is the primary factor for building the Southwest Parkway. According to the April 2003 North Central Texas Council of Government (NCTCOG) 2030 Demographic Forecast, the total population for the north central Texas region is projected to grow 56 percent to 9.1 million residents by 2030. Of the four NCTCOG core counties — Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant — each of which is growing rapidly, Tarrant County led all counties in the region by adding 39,950 residents from January 2003 to January 2004, pushing Tarrant County’s total population to 1.6 million residents.
Tarrant County’s population is projected to grow 21 percent through 2030. At this unprecedented growth rate, there is a need for more efficient transportation systems to accommodate current and future traffic demands between Forth Worth and newly developed and still developing areas in southwest Tarrant County. Although major reconstruction of the freeway system is currently under way, many of the local and rural streets are forced to serve as thoroughfares, leading to congested and unsafe conditions. This traffic congestion costs the local economy an estimated $4.2 billion annually.
It was obvious that without major improvements, including the disruptive reconstruction of the current roadway network, the existing system would become more congested. According to HDR, Inc.’s Professional Associate John Quintero, by providing a direct and continuous southwest-to-central major traffic artery in the form of the Southwest Parkway and the interchange, Tarrant County residents will benefit from improved regional mobility, air quality, road safety, improved response time for emergency vehicles, and less traffic congestion.
Plans call for extending the tollway from Fort Worth’s Central Business District at Interstate 30 (I-30) to southwest Fort Worth, connecting it to the 13-mile Chisholm Trail project in Johnson County. Part of this project will be a five-level interchange at State Highway 183 (SH-183) on I-20. Included in the design for this interchange will be two miles of new roadway, six-lane mainlines on Southwest Parkway with localized frontage roads, more than a mile of SH-183 reconstruction with new frontage roads, and direct connectors to I-20.
The interchange will also consist of nine direct connectors, 15 slip ramps, and reconstruction of one cross-street underpass. This segment represents the largest of Southwest Parkway’s five design segments, with cost estimates of $305 million, of which more than half is related to bridge work.
Quintero said the design team’s challenge was to incorporate the corridor master plan into the final design and include support for a transportation facility with a visually narrow cross section, additional landscaping, and bridge and wall treatments sensitive to the natural and constructed environment.
Distributed design teams
Achieving these objectives required meeting an aggressive, 18-month deadline established by the North Texas Tollway Authority. Consequently, HDR pooled multiple resources for extensive quality reviews of bridge and roadway designs. This necessitated mobilizing and integrating 134 HDR engineers, CAD designers, and other staff from 12 offices with more than 40 team members from four subconsultants across multiple locations. To establish a seamless interchange across the design team, HDR trained its subconsultants on ProjectWise. The software helped team members improve quality, reduce rework, and meet project deadlines, and it enabled real-time collaboration across distributed teams in an office or online as a hosted managed solution.
This training included HDR visiting each subcontractor’s office to install ProjectWise on workstations and ensure that each user was connected to its database. Hands-on training was also provided to every team member. In addition, HDR provided training to all team members on MicroStation V8, along with its design suites such as GEOPAK and Descartes.
HDR also installed the necessary framework for efficient work sharing and workload balancing. Improvements to HDR’s infrastructure consisted of increasing its network capacity and wide-area-network acceleration equipment at key design offices to provide faster file access for the entire team. To enhance technical support to the team, dedicated collaboration software engineers and CAD application specialists were put into place. With these resources, it was easy to demonstrate to team partners how the project-collaboration software added value to the design team by providing a consistent, efficient way to share work, manage documents, increase productivity, and, ultimately, improve the quality of project deliverables.
“The subconsultants were pleased to see the most current project information accessible with nothing more than an Internet connection and browser,” Quintero said. “Furthermore, the check-in/check-out, audit trail, and security features of ProjectWise allowed project team members to manage their documents effectively while preventing users from duplicating or overwriting their work.”
By using ProjectWise, HDR created a virtual office that eliminated the costs associated with relocating design team members to one central office location. HDR saved more than $1.48 million in travel costs and reduced its carbon emissions by 581 metric tons. This managed collaboration environment then made it possible for the design team to meet the tight schedule established by the North Texas Tollway Authority.
Angus Stocking, L.S., has more than 20 years of experience writing for a technical audience, including surveyors, engineers, GIS designers, and other infrastructure professionals. Based in Mountain View, Calif., he can be contacted at email@example.com.