All posts by David Graham

DBA Engineers Coauthor Cover Story of Latest DFI Magazine

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Cover Image of the Hastings Mississippi River Arch Bridge

The featured article in the July/August 2013 issue of Deep Foundations, the magazine of the Deep Foundations Institute, is coauthored by Dan, Paul, and Rich Lamb, P.E., of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).  The article summarizes how load testing has been used successfully as part of the foundation design process by DBA and MnDOT on five major bridge projects along the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers during the last 10 years and the lessons learned from these successive projects.   The featured bridge projects include two major design-build projects, the emergency replacement of the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge (2007) and the Hastings Mississippi River Arch Bridge (2011).  The other traditional design-bid-build projects include the I-494 Wakota Mississippi River Bridge, the U.S. Hwy 52 Lafayette Mississippi River Bridge, and the St Croix River Bridge.  As is often the case, each of these projects presented unique geological and hydrogeological challenges to foundation design – despite the projects all being within 30 miles of each other – including thick layers of highly organic compressible soils overlying bedrock, layers of cobbles and boulders, artesian groundwater conditions, and bedrock ranging from weak weathered sandstone to very hard dolostone.  These varying conditions resulted in the use and testing of a variety of foundations.  Load testing “with a purpose” has proven to be an integral part of the design and construction process on these projects, as the load tests were not simply for verification of a design but provided valuable information used to optimize the designs and provide quality assurance of the construction practices.

Please read the full article here or in a copy of Deep Foundations, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Deep Foundations Institute.   DFI is an international technical association of firms and individuals involved in the deep foundations and related industry.  More information about DFI and how to become a member can be found at www.dfi.org.

Also see our Projects Page for more about some of these projects and our other major projects.

Hastings Bridge Opens to Traffic

Looking north towards Hastings as traffic travels on both bridges

Looking west from the Hastings’ river bank

I had the unique opportunity to be among the first people to cross the new Hastings bridge and among the last to cross the old Hastings bridge, during the short period of time when the two bridges were simultaneously carrying traffic.

Yesterday evening, Monday, June 3rd, crews shifted southbound traffic onto the new bridge for the first time.  This evening, the old bridge will be closed to traffic for good as crews shift northbound traffic onto the new bridge.  According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there will be a funeral service of sorts for the 1950’s era truss bridge tonight, complete with a bagpiper and hearse.

Being just up the road for the St. Croix Bridge Project, I took the opportunity to travel across both bridges today and take a few pictures like the ones above.   It is not every day that we, as foundation designers, get a chance to see this stage of a project.  Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time.

St. Croix Bridge Construction Starts with Official Groundbreaking

St Croix Aerial Rendering

Earlier this week, officials from the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation (MnDOT and WisDOT) met for an official groundbreaking ceremony on the projected $629 million bridge and highway project that will connect Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, to St. Joseph, Wisconsin, just south of Stillwater, Minnesota, as highlighted in yesterday’s edition of The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.  The new bridge will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge and relieve traffic congestion in nearby Stillwater.

DBA has been retained by MnDOT as the lead geotechnical consultant and foundation designer for the extradosed river bridge.  Last summer, DBA aided MnDOT in the design and oversight of a load test program described in my blog post, “DBA Wraps Up Load Test Program and Proceeds with Design on St. Croix Bridge.”  Following final design, which took place over the fall and winter, construction of the foundations will begin next week with the installation of a technique shaft.  DBA will participate in construction as well, providing construction observation and review of the technique shaft and at least one shaft at each of the five production piers.  Edward Kraemer & Sons, Inc. of Plain, Wisconsin, has been selected as the general contractor for the foundation contract with sub-contractor Case Foundation Company of Chicago, Illinois, performing the drilling.  The extradosed bridge will feature five main river towers, each resting on two footings supported by a 4-shaft group of 8.5-foot drilled shafts, socketed 25-feet or more into sandstone bedrock.

I hope to have some more updates soon with some pictures following my upcoming site visits to observe the construction operations.  In the mean time, you can stay updated by visiting the MnDOT project page and watching the “action” live via the construction webcam.

Article by Dan in Geo-Strata

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An article coauthored by Dan and Dr. Paul Mayne, P.E. of Georgia Tech on geotechnical engineering in the Piedmont appeared in the November/December issue of  the Geo-Institute’s Geo-Strata Magazine.  The four page piece includes a brief overview of Piedmont geology, a discussion on sampling and testing of Piedmont soil and rock, a description of some of the unique engineering properties of Piedmont geomaterials, a discussion on the standard of practice for foundation design within the region, and a discussion on the value of engineering experience.  Examples and data from research and construction projects Dan and Dr. Mayne have been involved in are scattered throughout.  To read the article yourself, click here or pickup the latest copy of Geo-Strata.

DBA and Missouri S&T Conduct Live Load Test at Foothills Bridge as Construction Wraps Up

Just before Christmas, David, Tim, and Nathan joined Dr. Ronaldo Luna and his graduate student, Devin Dixon, of Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri–Rolla) to conduct a live load test on the all but officially complete Foothills Parkway Bridge No. 2., near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  During installation of the micropile foundations, DBA and Dr. Luna’s research team installed strain gages in four micropiles and at the base of the pier pedestals at both Piers 1 and 2 of the bridge.  Strain data have been collected during construction of the superstructure.  Following completion of the bridge, the live load test involved loading the bridge with four loaded dump trucks at prescribed locations with respect to the instrumented piers.  Data were collected for several load configurations.  The aim of the research is to better understand the performance of micropiles and micropile groups, particularly with respect to bending.

Visiting the site for the load test provided an opportunity to take some great pictures of this particularly scenic bridge nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  A new web album of pictures taken by David has been added to our Picasa page here,  and some aerial photos of the nearly completed bridge taken in December by Aerial Innovations have been added to our Picasa web album Foothills Parkway Bridge No. 2 – From a Bird’s Eye View.

Dan Inducted into the UT Austin Cockrell School Academy of Distinguished Alumni

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Seven alumni and one faculty member of the Cockrell School of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin were recently inducted into the School’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.  Dan, who received his Ph.D from UT Austin in 1985, was recognized for his award wining research at Auburn and his distinguished consulting career here at DBA.  The other 2012 inductees included:

  • Raul E. Allegre, a former UT and NFL football star and Spanish-speaking NFL football commentator.
  • Elia King de Jordan, a Peruvian transportation engineer turned business-woman who was the former general manager of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
  • Elie H. Homsi, the senior vice president of Engineering Services at Flatiron Corp. responsible for much of that company’s success and accolades, including some DBA consulting projects.
  • James H. Metzger, the president and CEO of a construction company that bears his name with over 45 years of experience in the construction industry.
  • G. Charles Naeve, an award winning structural engineer and founder of Architectural Engineering Collaborative who has pioneered green and sustainable design.
  • Kelley S. Neumann, a 20-year veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, she is also responsible for several major public works projects in San Antonio as senior vice president of Strategic Resources.
  • Roy E. Olsonprofessor emeritus of geotechnical engineering, was recognized for his long and honored career as faculty member at UT Austin.

Congratulations to Dan and all the others who have received this honor!

DBA Wraps Up Load Test Program and Proceeds with Design on St. Croix Bridge

Project rendering courtesy of HDR 

Lateral Statnamic test, picture by David Graham of DBA, click here for a YouTube video

DBA has been selected by MnDOT as a geotechnical and load testing consultant for the design phase load test program and foundation design of a new bridge crossing the the St. Croix River near Oak Park Heights and Stillwater, Minnesota. The new bridge will carry State Highway 36 across the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Currently, Highway 36 is carried on an 80-year old two-lane vertical lift bridge in downtown Stillwater.  The new bridge will divert the heavy through traffic away from the historic downtown center and reduce travel time for commuters.  The iconic lift bridge will be converted to a pedestrian and bicycle only structure.

Work began this summer on the load test program which consisted of one 8-foot test shaft, two 24-inch driven steel pipe piles, and two 42-inch driven steel pipe piles, all installed in the St. Croix River along the alignment of the new bridge.  Local contractor Carl Bolander & Sons Co. was selected as the general contractor for the load testing program.  Bolander self-performed the installation of the test piles and sub-contracted the construction of the test shaft to Case Foundation Company, of Chicago, Illinois.  Axial load testing of the test shaft was performed by Loadtest, Inc., of Gainesville, Florida, using Osterberg Cells (O-cells).  Dynamic testing of the driven piles using the pile driving analyzer (PDA) was performed by local geotechnical consultant Braun Intertec.  Axial testing of the driven piles and lateral testing of the shaft and one of each size pile was performed using the Statnamic Device by Applied Foundation Testing, Inc. (AFT), of Jacksonville, Florida.  DBA provided pre-test recommendations, assisted MnDOT in construction oversight, provided analysis and review of the test results, and made design recommendations based on the test results.

Following the successful load test program, DBA is working with MnDOT’s structural design consultants for the project, HDR, Inc. and Buckland & Taylor Ltd.  to optimize the bridge design.  Already, the design team has been able to lengthen the bridge spans and eliminate a river pier as a result of the load test results, as was recently reported by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).  Also, because the total number of drilled shafts required to support the main pier towers has been reduced, construction on the foundations will been moved up to 2013 rather than the original estimated start date in 2014, also reported by MPR.

For more information, please see:

The MnDOT Project Page

The DBA Project Summary Sheet

Hastings Bridge Takes Shape with Newly Installed Main Span

photo by Chad Richardson of the Hastings Star Gazette

A major construction feat was recently completed at the Highway 61 bridge project in Hastings, Minnesota when the 545-foot, 6.5 million-pound main bridge span was hoisted into place, 50 feet above the Mississippi river.  The main span, the longest free-standing tied-arch in North America, was constructed on the shore of the Mississippi River, about a mile upstream of the river crossing.  Placed on massive dollies, the span was rolled onto a set of six barges and floated downstream.  Once positioned under the piers, hydraulic jacks on top of the piers slowly lifted the span into place.  Around midnight on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012, the lift was complete.  By noon of the following day the span was secured in place and the existing bridge was reopened to traffic. A time lapse video of the entire process can be viewed below or on YouTube.

Links to news stories published about the main span lift:

Mn/DOT News Release

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “New Hastings bridge reaches into the future”

Hastings Star Gazette, “A massive lift, massive relief – Bridge crews worked long hours, drank 50 gallons of coffee and ate 10 gallons of chili”

Links to project information:

MnDOT Project Page

DBA Project Page

Previous Hastings Blog Posts

New Pictures of Hastings Bridge Added to Our Picasa Web Album

Some new pictures of the Hastings bridge project in Hastings, Minnesota have been added to our Picasa Web Album: Hastings Bridge Construction.  The  pictures were taken by myself, David Graham, who has been in the area working on a load test program for a new bridge crossing the St. Croix River near Stillwater, Minnesota, and Griff Wigley, our blog coach who lives nearby in Northfield, Minnesota.  The pictures show some of the recently poured deck sections, the completed piers, and the main span arch construction.  Once completed, the main span arch will be moved onto barges, floated downstream, and lifted into place in one piece.  We have chronicled this interesting and successful project in several previous blog posts that can be found here.

Mike Holloway in DFI Magazine

The July/August 2012 issue of Deep Foundations features one of our newest employees, Dr. Michael Holloway, in its “People, Projects and Equipment” section.  The article, entitled “D. Michael Holloway: Strong Mind, Strong Personality,” follows Mike’s education and career as a geotechnical engineer from his “outrageous streak” in high school to his current position at DBA.  If you are interested in learning more about the “strong mind” and “strong personality” that is Mike Holloway, click the link above or check your mailbox for a copy of the latest copy of Deep Foundations, only from DFI.

This is not the first time we have been lucky enough to have one of our own featured in the “People, Projects and Equipment” section.  Some of you may remember that Dan was featured in the Winter 2011 issue.  A copy of that article and the associated blog post can be found here.