Melissa Road

Construction Project Volatility: Avoid Frustration & Achieve Success

May 13, 2024
By Chris Kester, Director of Project Controls, WSB

Economic instability, rising inflation, and labor and supply chain issues have created price fluctuations and instability in the construction industry in recent years. Now you are seeing prices level out and projects coming in within budget and everything is back to normal, right? Wrong. Costs and supply availability are still hard to predict, adding undue complications to those planning and executing construction projects. 

Every construction project, every client, and every contractor is different, but many are facing similar challenges. While there are no quick and easy solutions to completely predict and overcome rising costs and swift market changes, there are some things to consider that can help mitigate risk and help you overcome obstacles. 

  1. Consider alternate materials. There are still some lingering supply chain issues from major events of the last few years. It can be difficult for suppliers to provide certain building materials to contractors at certain times, and short summer construction seasons in colder climates squeeze supplies even more. It’s typically good practice to have alternative materials and design options and these are best entertained early. If you must substitute a material post-letting, it could be your best option at the time, but those scenarios are usually best when they are avoided by foreseeing them ahead of time.
  2. Plan ahead. It is important to plan out projects ahead of time as much as possible and stick to your timeline. Suppliers often cannot commit materials until contracts are signed, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. You might entertain the idea of pre-procuring those materials that pose the most risk or you could estimate the lead times and work that into the planned construction schedule.
  3. Be flexible and work in stages. Projects are continuing to increase in complexity and we have very little influence over things like traffic, utilities, and limited ROW. However, you do have the ability to decide what is being built and to anticipate the best possible way that it can be built efficiently. Cost can be impacted significantly if the design is not properly staged to work around those things we cannot change.
  4. Understand risk and how developers predict cost. Trying to predict project costs has become more difficult, from the price of materials to the cost of labor, and everyone is working to keep their financial risk at a minimum. Often, there is a sizable imbalance between the price it takes a contractor to complete a project and the price the contractor bids for the work. Dramatic price fluctuations have caused a great deal of frustration for owners who are confused as to why a project might be so expensive compared to the price of the same project a few months earlier. Different types of projects like design-build and construction management/general contractor, for example, come with different amounts of risk, so it’s important to think through what works best for your project. 

While there’s no crystal ball in the construction industry, common sense planning and following these tips can help mitigate risk, provide confidence to all parties involved, and set your cosntruction project up for success. 

How WSB Can Help

A review from the experienced estimators at WSB can help identify areas of potential risk, allow you to anticipate problems and provide alternative plans to keep your projects on budget and schedule. Contact us to learn more about mitigating possible project roadblocks.

Chris spent most of his career with a regional construction company where he prepared production-based estimates in excess of $300 million annually, many of those being DOT or State-Aid. He provides the ability to analyze from the perspective of a contractor and assemble a contractor-style estimate while identifying, analyzing, and mitigating risks.

[email protected] | 651.492.3853

Chris Kester
Construction Staking

The Future of Construction Staking

March 7, 2024

By Matt Minton, Construction Survey Project Manager, WSB

In the ever-evolving landscape of construction, precision is not just a goal; it’s a necessity. As we stand on the cusp of a new era in construction technology, the role of construction staking has never been more pivotal. Modern construction staking is reshaping the industry and embracing this change is crucial for future success.

Innovation at the Forefront

Construction staking is the unsung hero of the building process and a critical step that translates visionary 2D plans into tangible reality. With the advent of advanced technologies such as GNSS, laser scanning and drones, the accuracy and efficiency of construction staking have reached unprecedented levels, and as the technology evolves, so too must construction staking. These innovations allow for rapid, precise measurements, ensuring that every stake set is a step toward perfection.

Leveraging technology to share staking data, updates and changes in real-time assists in moving the industry forward and increasing productivity at all levels. Tools like construction management software are being utilized more to effectively streamline communication and reduce wasted time using outdated plans and data.

Sustainability as a Guiding Principle

As environmental stewardship becomes increasingly important, construction staking plays a vital role in sustainable building practices. Accurate staking minimizes resource waste and environmental impact, laying the groundwork for projects that not only stand the test of time but also respect our planet’s delicate balance. The environmental impacts of construction are the responsibility of all parties involved.

Collaboration: The Keystone of Success

The complexity of modern construction projects demands a collaborative approach, and construction staking is at the heart of this synergy. The single commonality of all parties in construction is the successful completion of the project. By fostering clear communication, construction staking ensures that every stake is placed with a shared vision of success.

Educating the Next Generation

Thought leadership in construction staking also involves mentorship and education. By sharing knowledge and experience, seasoned professionals pave the way for the next generation of surveyors, equipping them with the skills and insights needed to continue the tradition of excellence. Through effective training, evolution of the construction industry will not leave behind the future surveyors.

Eliminating Common Errors in Construction Staking

Construction staking is a critical step in the building process, but it is not immune to errors. These mistakes can lead to costly delays, rework and even safety hazards. However, with diligent planning and execution, most common staking errors can be avoided. By utilizing the available technology effectively, errors created by plans and calculations can be eliminated, and surveyors can focus more on eliminating the human errors that are often the cause of construction staking errors. It is essential for surveyors to adhere to standards and build in independent checks to eliminate errors and maintain consistency.

During the staking process, potential errors with the project can be identified early on. For instance, a project manager can physically see if a portion of a building is too close to a property boundary line or does not allow enough room for a walkway. This proactive approach allows for adjustments before they become expensive problems.

Establishing a Clear Chain of Command

A well-defined chain of command facilitates efficient communication and decision making. It is crucial to establish who is responsible for conveying staking information and who the contractors should contact when questions or concerns arise. Typically, the field crew are the ones in front of the contractors. Quick decisions can be made on the fly; however, requests outside of planned tasks should always be rerouted to the project manager to ensure that budget and time constraints are not impacted.

Maintaining Quality Checks

Regular quality checks of communication help prevent errors that could arise from miscommunication. This includes verifying that all parties have received and understood the latest staking information. This includes proactive communication by all parties prior to the work taking place.


Construction staking remains a fundamental part of the building process. It ensures accurate and safe construction, adherence to codes and regulations and minimizes costly errors. From planned improvements to actual site mapping, construction staking bridges the gap between the 2-dimensional development plans, and the 3-dimensional executed reality.

How WSB Can Help

The highly trained team at WSB uses cutting-edge technology and industry leading best practices to ensure every project is completed safely, accurately and efficiently. Contact us to learn more about how we can set your project up for success.

Matt has been working in the surveying industry for over 25 years. In 2007 he founded his own surveying company that specialized in construction surveying, for 5 years he served many communities and worked on various construction projects. In 2012 he continued his survey journey by focusing on enhancing construction surveying practices at other companies. At WSB he has implemented innovative training programs such as GPS/GNSS systems and improved project procedures. He addresses common challenges in the field leading to a reduction of high-risk issues associated with construction staking.

[email protected] | 720.302.3242

Improving Infrastructure Across the Country

December 18, 2023

By Brian Bourassa, Vice President of Corporate Development, WSB

At WSB, we build what’s next in infrastructure—the places, spaces and systems that support our lives. We take pride in supporting communities across the country on a wide variety of projects. With over 30 complementary services within engineering, community planning, environmental and construction, we support the commercial, government and energy markets. From city to state, land development to facilities, and energy utilities to renewable energy— we build for people and the future. 



There is a lot of potential in the energy market, and we continue to lead the industry with advanced project delivery. In Arkansas, we perform utility work for Summit Utilities through inspection as well as utility mapping. Through this work, we have digitally mapped a large portion of new installations. Utility mapping is the future, and the safety and efficiency benefits are significant. 


Renewable energy is creating a more sustainable future. Across the country, we’re supporting utility scale solar fields and community solar gardens. Community solar gardens are constructed on smaller tracts of land within a specific geographic location and provide energy to individuals, businesses, nonprofits and other groups. A recent project we supported is Clearway Cokato in Minnesota. This 4-Megawatt community solar garden was distributed across 20 acres of land. We also provided infiltration trenches as stormwater management BMP’s. 



The Ridge is a 142-lot subdivision on 160 acres located within Crystal Valley outside of Denver, Colorado. This Crystal Valley Ranch property proved to be one of the most complex subdivisions ever completed by our land development team due to some challenging features. The project included steep grades, limited connection points, adjacent existing subdivision tie-ins, the creation of an entirely new pressure zone in the town’s water system and preservation of existing Gambel oak and view plane restrictions. 


We support many large facilities, including buildings on healthcare campuses. At the Kellen Research Building on the Mayo Clinic campus, we provided geotechnical inspections, vertical and civil special inspection services and GPR for the research building. Additionally, we provided land surveying, civil engineering and landscape architecture design. 


Recently, we have partnered with the University of Minnesota-Duluth to improve campus infrastructure. A project of note was the replacement of the heating plant underground storage tanks along with new asphalt and concrete pavements and sidewalks. Another involved replacing severely worn entrance roads, sidewalks and parking lots and improving crosswalk safety for the Chester Park building. For each of these projects WSB provided materials testing and special inspection services. 



We recently supported the city of Brainerd’s Oak Street Improvement Project in front of Harrison Elementary School, a roadway that warranted several improvements to improve safety of pedestrians and students crossing the busy corridor. The $500,000 project was fully funded by the Safe Routes to School grant program. The road was reconstructed with a median, Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs), and appropriate pedestrian signage to improve awareness and safety of pedestrians crossing the roadway. 


WSB provided plans, specifications and estimates (PS&E) for RM 967 in Hays County. The $6.6 million project added several improvements such as widening lanes, adding a continuous left turn lane, additional lanes at intersections and safety shoulders to 4.4 miles of the minor arterial. Beyond this, many traffic and pedestrian signals were improved, reducing congestion-related delays. Several innovative design elements were involved in making this project successful including designing a portion of the project non-symmetrically and developing a new construction approach to avoid relocation efforts. 


We recently performed a grade raise on ND 14; a roadway of regional significance backed by Emergency Relief funding. The goal of the project was to improve safety, specifically to expand flood risk protection. WSB supports roadway projects with many services, but this project included construction inspection and contract administration. 


WSB is part of a multi-disciplinary team designing a new high school campus in Twin Buttes, North Dakota. The comprehensive project encompasses constructing a school building, a large sports stadium featuring artificial turf, a sports dome, and a residence hall. Our role in this endeavor extends to spearheading critical site components, including civil engineering, permitting, and landscape architectural services. This project holds immense significance due to its commitment to incorporating indigenous values into the curriculum and addressing a vital need within the community. The closest existing high school is over 40 miles away, making this initiative an essential step toward providing accessible education for the local population. 

Brian is a registered professional engineer with over 30 years of experience in many types of municipal and general civil engineering projects including streets, parking lots, storm sewers and drainage, water distribution systems, sanitary sewer systems, site grading, park improvements, infrastructure reconstruction, and tribal communities. Brian’s experience includes all phases of the project including feasibility study, design documents. bidding process and construction administration.

[email protected] | 763.287.8536

Navigating the Future: Digital Construction Management with WSB

December 7, 2023
By Andy Kaiyala | VP of Construction Technologies and Controls, TX, WSB

In an ever-evolving construction industry, Digital Construction Management (DCM) is the future of our industry. Utilizing cloud-based connected data environments that visualize the physical world in an interactive digital space is the next step to advance civil construction project delivery. This undertaking will produce accurate 3D models that become the single source of truth for project delivery, with each stakeholder building upon the work of the previous.

Simply put, this is the future of civil infrastructure and WSB is at the forefront with our DCM service.

Defining Digital Construction Management
Digital Construction Management represents a paradigm shift. At its core, DCM is the fusion of advanced technology and traditional construction practices that allows all stakeholders to evaluate the same data and make smart decisions.

The shift from 2D to 3D workflows will not occur overnight, but we recognize the value of 3D modeling and its ability to provide a more comprehensive and intuitive view of a construction project. 3D models enable stakeholders to visualize the project in its entirety. Where are utility clashes? Where are the trouble spots that need to be addressed? How will shifting elements of a project play out in the real world?

DCM has far-reaching implications for every stage of a construction project, from design to execution.

Unparalleled Problem Solving
Every project comes with risk, but DCM helps create the opportunity to take risk from an abstract concept to a concrete reality so challenges can be solved efficiently. When the proposed design is analyzed in context of a full existing-conditions model, problems are identified early, risk is mitigated and projects are ultimately more efficient and cost-effective.

Putting the Design Model to Work
WSB is excited about DCM because it is the intersection between services and software, and what is next for our industry. WSB provides both cutting-edge software tools and the expertise to use them effectively. DCM enhances our clients’ capabilities, allowing them to integrate operational data within one platform from the very earliest stages of the project through construction close out.

WSB’s in-house DCM expertise spans construction modeling, visualization, design modeling, 4D scheduling, data analytics, project controls, IT development resources, constructability review and automated machine control. This holistic approach ensures that every facet of the project benefits from DCM.

Preparing for the 3D Future
WSB’s approach to Digital Construction Management is about meeting clients where they are today while preparing them for the future.

The future of construction is digital, and our DCM services are empowering clients to make informed decisions while fostering collaboration, utilizing data intelligently and mitigating risks.

The digital future is here, and WSB is leading the way.

Andy is Vice President of Construction Technologies and Controls with over 25 years of industry experience and emphasis on large, complex, alternative delivery infrastructure projects in the transportation, heavy civil, flood control, and transit spaces. Andy has led teams that secured construction projects with a contract value of more than $5B in nine states and three countries.

[email protected] | 203.599.5984

Three Ways Operational Models are Bringing Innovation & Value to Construction Projects

July 12, 2023
By Andy Kaiyala, VP of Construction Technology & Controls

In the world of civil engineering, the success of a construction project hinges on efficient planning, precise execution, and effective management. Fostered by new technology, the creation of operational and constructible 3D models is bringing innovation to construction projects and greater value to stakeholders. WSB is at the forefront of advanced technology which brings innovative solutions for clients.

Creating an Operational Model:

In the past three years, WSB has focused strategic energy on the creation of operational models, bringing the digital future to construction projects. But how do we define an operational model, and what makes them important?

Operational models take projects to the next level, providing construction and management information which improves the overall project. Operational models visualize the relationship between engineering data time, construction sequence, logistics, asset management and cost. This valuable information allows project stakeholders to make informed decisions, forecast costs, optimize resource allocation, and manage project timelines.

The Benefits of Using an Operational 3D Model

How do operational models improve construction projects? Here are three ways they are revolutionizing our industry.

  1. Improves stakeholder communication. Stakeholders access and utilize the same details and data by leveraging an operational model. This shared information minimizes delays, conflicts, and confusion, promoting better collaboration and coordination among project participants.
  2. Optimizes project resources. By creating an operational model, WSB and its stakeholder partners are able to use resources efficiently and effectively. Specifically, by considering cost data, alternative material options, and supplier details, operational models help identify cost-effective solutions, preventing unnecessary expenses and delays, while streamlining project timelines.
  3. Brings continuity and transparency across the entire life of a project.  A 3D digital environment helps mitigate conflict through the introduction and visualization of a project. Essentially, a project is digitally “built” before anyone is in the field. Moreover, the shift from traditional 2D paper to 3D digital models ensures continuity across the entire lifecycle of a project. From design and construction to operation and management, a 3D operational model allows for real-time updates and seamless communication, fostering efficiency and reducing errors.

Andy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position. The role was developed in response to the growing availability of project delivery methods, including Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) and progressive design build.  The entire AEC industry is recognizing the value of a more transparent process that’s being driven by digital delivery. With Andy’s expertise, WSB will guide our clients through a process that mitigates risk and reduces conflict for all stakeholders.

Construction Delays: How to Plan for the Expected and Unexpected

May 15, 2023
By Michael Rief, Sr Vice President of Construction, WSB

It is not every day that a construction project is delayed due to digging up unmarked graves, but it certainly happens more than the public might realize. Construction projects face the potential of delays in work for many reasons. Some of these are within the control of the managing company, while others are outside of their control. It is essential for industry leaders and local municipalities to understand the potential causes of delays and to have plans in place to address them promptly and mitigate cost, schedule, and quality.

Controllable Delays

Delays that are within the control of a company are often preventable and are caused by a variety of issues. Plan issues, utility conflicts, poor workmanship or low-quality materials can result in the need for rework, which can delay the project, impact schedule, and increase the cost of your project. This can happen if the work is not done to the required standard or if the materials used do not meet the specified quality criteria. The time and effort required to rework or remove and replace the work can be significant, and it can result in delays to other work later in the schedule that is dependent on it.

Permitting, environmental and safety concerns can also cause delays in construction projects and may require work to be stopped, which can also result in additional costs. Communication or misunderstanding in the planning and execution of the work between project stakeholders, can lead to confusion about project requirements, timelines, and other critical information

To mitigate these risks, WSB takes proactive measures, such as implementing quality control processes, investing in safety training, improving team communication, and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.

Uncontrollable Delays

In addition to these internal factors, there is a number of external factors which can cause delays in construction projects. Weather is the largest external factor in delaying construction. Whether it be snow, high winds, extreme temperatures, or severe flooding, all are outside the control of the construction project team and create significant setbacks.

Subsurface obstacles such as poor soils, unidentified utilities, contamination, or historical and religious artifacts uncovered during excavation significantly impact the project timeline. These may require design changes, new permitting and approvals, and additional costs.

We have also experienced government shutdown or stoppage in programming funding which has delayed construction because contractors are no longer able to be paid, and approval processes shut down. These delays can potentially shut down work by months, even years, depending on how long the stoppage lasts

These external factors are harder to influence and, in many cases, impossible to control, but there are ways WSB’s team and partners work to eliminate and minimize their impact on projects.

How WSB Can Help:

WSB thinks through all possible scenarios to ensure that it’s prepared to prevent, address, and resolve any delays that may arise.

Existing processes such as project scoping, soils exploration and project planning along with technological advancements like ground-penetrating radar and drone surveys help WSB identify potential issues like subsurface items or utilities that must be cleared before a project begins. These approaches help to further define the nature of the work and identify issues in the planning and design phases to prevent costly changes which can impact, cost schedule and quality during the construction phases of the work. Planning and sequencing of construction activities is also managed with technological advancements. WSB identifies conflicts for each stage of the construction stages by applying conflict analysis on temporary construction elements such as drainage and traffic needs by utilizing clash detection and contract time determination.

Construction project delays can be caused by a range of factors, both within and outside of the control of the owner and contractor. However, by implementing proactive measures, investing in technology, and prioritizing communication, WSB minimizes the risk of delays and ensures that projects are completed on time and within budget for municipalities.

Mike Rief leads WSB’s Construction Services team. He has nearly 30 years of experience in civil engineering, with an emphasis on pavement and materials, pavement management, quality management, project management, design, risk assessment, project controls, contract administration, construction, and preventative maintenance. Throughout his tenure, he’s managed several complex, high-profile projects across Minnesota.

[email protected] | 612.518.8329

Michael Rief
Synchro 4D

WSB and Bentley Systems Offer New Digital Construction Management Service Based on SYNCHRO

March 13, 2023

Will Provide Digital Integrator and Advisory Services for Construction Digital Twins Running in Bentley Infrastructure Cloud

Bentley Systems, Incorporated (Nasdaq: BSY), the infrastructure engineering software company, today announced a collaboration initiative with WSB to lead civil infrastructure owners and contractors to adopt and use infrastructure digital twins. WSB has launched a new digital construction management solution and advisory service, based on Bentley’s SYNCHRO, to help the civil infrastructure market overcome challenges of adopting model-based digital workflows and leveraging the power of construction digital twins. WSB is the first firm to join the Bentley Digital Integrator Program for construction to provide programmatic go-to-market support and knowledge transfer to eligible engineering and project delivery firms and system integrators creating and curating digital twins for their clients’ infrastructure assets.

SYNCHRO simplifies the delivery of infrastructure construction projects.
SYNCHRO simplifies the delivery of infrastructure construction projects.

Construction work is too often based on 2D drawings, spreadsheets, and document-based workflows resulting in errors, waste, and rework that cause most projects to be over budget and schedule. Bentley and WSB will lead firms in transforming construction by adopting technology and digital delivery.

“Owners and construction firms realize that new digital workflows are needed to meet infrastructure demands. Applying these digital workflows successfully requires a deep understanding of technology, processes, and data,” said Carsten Gerke, senior vice president of strategic partnerships with Bentley Systems. “The Bentley Digital Integrator Program is built around combining technology with subject matter expertise for improved infrastructure. WSB joining the program provides a leapfrog opportunity for all our transportation users.”

Through a combination of industry-leading software, expertise, and innovation, Bentley and WSB’s digital construction management initiative is helping to shape the way infrastructure projects are delivered. Key services include enabling a single source of truth by connecting project, contract, and document management to the future of design—a 3D/4D/5D constructable model—as well as the ability to create constructable models from current 2D plan sets, which allows the transition to a single source of truth for all stakeholders. This initiative is committed to putting the industry-leading model-based construction management tool in the hands of those who build the work. WSB promotes advanced project delivery and knows how to apply the right technology and expertise to support their clients’ aspirations for a digital future.

“WSB is committed to delivering innovative, reliable, and secure solutions through the use of advanced technology. We believe the successful deployment of an operational 3D model drives transparency, maximizes return on investment, makes possible true lifecycle planning, and drives collaboration to connect and align all stakeholders,” said Jon Chiglo, chief operating officer of WSB. “We have an entire organization that is leading, creating, and innovating into our digital future. Our partnership with Bentley is an important part of this vision and we are excited to bring this digital construction management service to market.”

SYNCHRO, Bentley’s construction management software that supports the entire civil construction lifecycle with simple office-to-field workflows and gives firms insight into project performance, productivity, and financial health, is the foundation for WSB’s offering. SYNCHRO is the construction service of the Bentley Infrastructure Cloud leveraging digital twin technologies, powered by iTwin.

Together, Bentley and WSB are meeting the market where it is and providing the tools, training, education, and support required to make the digital leap. Project teams will realize the value of model-based digital delivery for better project efficiency and outcomes. Civil infrastructure owners and contractors will overcome barriers to technology adoption to drive efficiencies from preconstruction planning through construction execution. Skills will improve as more projects adopt model-based delivery, resulting in it becoming the common standard.

“Owners and construction firms realize that new digital workflows are needed to meet infrastructure demands, but they often face issues when determining how best to adopt technology,” said Rich Humphrey, vice president of construction with Bentley. “In civil infrastructure, they also face unique challenges related to the nature of the design information they receive, and the spatial logistics involved. Bentley with WSB is the perfect combination to enable project teams to resolve adoption hurdles and ensure that technology results in a step function improvement in the way projects are delivered from design through construction execution.”

About Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) is the infrastructure engineering software company. We provide innovative software to advance the world’s infrastructure – sustaining both the global economy and environment. Our industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals, and organizations of every size, for the design, construction, and operations of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and wastewater, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, mining, and industrial facilities. Our offerings, powered by the iTwin Platform for infrastructure digital twins, include MicroStation and Bentley Open applications for modeling and simulation, Seequent’s software for geoprofessionals, and Bentley Infrastructure Cloud encompassing ProjectWise for project delivery, SYNCHRO for construction management, and AssetWise for asset operations. Bentley Systems’ 5,000 colleagues generate annual revenues of more than $1 billion in 194 countries.

About WSB

WSB, a design and consulting firm providing engineering, planning, environmental and construction services. Its staff improves the way people engage with communities, transportation, infrastructure, energy and our environment. WSB offers services in more than 30-complementary areas to seamlessly integrate planning, design and implementation. Its coast-to-coast client base is served from 15 offices in five states. WSB’s staff is inspired to look beyond today and capitalize on the opportunities of tomorrow. Guided by a strong vision and an authentic passion, WSB is a company that strives to forge ahead. To learn more, visit

© 2023 Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Bentley, the Bentley logo, Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, AssetWise, iTwin, MicroStation, ProjectWise, Seequent, and SYNCHRO are either registered or unregistered trademarks or service marks of Bentley Systems, Incorporated or one of its direct or indirect wholly owned subsidiaries. All other brands and product names are trademarks of their respective owners.

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Twin Ports Interchange

Twin Ports Interchange

January 12, 2023

By Chad DeMenge, Director of Contract Administration, WSB
Bryon Amo, Senior Engineering Specialist, WSB

Well-maintained, organized infrastructure is vital to safe travel and commerce, including the transportation of materials, goods, and people across the country. The Twin Ports Interchange in Northeastern Minnesota, which connects I-35, I-535, and Hwy 53, needed a significant upgrade to be viable and meet the modern needs of users.

The previous interchange was a series of intertwining and crossing bridges, roads, and traffic signals, serving as the main connection for goods and tourism through the city of Duluth. The original interchange was built between 1969 and 1972, and serves as a vital access point for the port of Duluth, one of the Great Lakes’ major ports.

Alternative Delivery Benefits

Delivered through a CMGC method, the contractor and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) were actively involved from the beginning of design and worked collaboratively to deliver this project. Active participation in early design allowed our team to gain an understanding of the history of the project and the impacts of the unique location and design.  

Engineering Ground Improvements

When the Interstate and interchange were originally built, the engineers were challenged by poor soils. The project area was formerly part of St. Louis Bay and had been filled by various industrial and railroad activities for over 100 years. The solution was to build the highway on low-level bridges on piers, allowing the highway to be supported on piling. The piling was nearing the end of its lifecycle and showed signs of corrosion. In addition, the open bridges between the bay and the neighborhood posed safety hazards, as pedestrians could freely travel under the highway, and through the highly active railyard.

To eliminate the low-level bridges, streamline maintenance costs, and isolate the railyard from the neighborhood, the team chose to build the roadway directly on the ground through the area, using the placement of grouted column ground improvements. The geotechnical team mapped the entire area, determining depths and spacing for over 8,000 ground improvement columns to support the new roadway embankment.

Combining Creeks

Miller Creek and Coffee Creek are two designated trout streams that crossed under the Interstate and ran under city streets. To provide a more suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife, the two creeks were opened and combined into one. Eliminating one entire crossing under the highway saved millions in construction and future maintenance costs.

Relocating Rail Lines

To accommodate construction staging throughout the project, the three-rail lines entering the railyard needed to be relocated three times. Due to the proximity of the bridges and new roadway to the railyard, the collective project partners including owner, contractor, engineer, and the railway worked together to maintain up to ten active rail crossings at a time.

Mitigating Contamination

The surrounding area is rich in industrial history that caused contamination in the soil and groundwater. To pre-treat all the groundwater before it’s discharged to the local wastewater treatment plant, the contractor built a water treatment center. Making these improvements and mitigating contamination allows the project to meet current Pollution Control Agency and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Construction innovation for the future.

The project’s new design began in early 2019. When complete, the project will not only increase safety, but will allow operations in, out, and around the interchange to run more seamlessly for the interchange’s 80,000 daily users. The new interchange will be able to support the oversize and overweight loads coming in and out of the port. Construction of the Twin Ports Interchange is expected to be completed in 2025.

WSB Services Provided:

  • Constructability Reviews
  • Independent Cost Estimating during Design
  • Construction Oversight and Inspection
  • Contract Administration
  • Change Management
  • Material Testing Services during Construction
Construction Industry

Construction Industry Volatility and Rising Prices: Avoid Frustration & Achieve Success

October 14, 2022
By Christopher Kester, Sr Estimator, WSB

Economic instability, rising inflation, and labor and supply chain issues have created price fluctuations and instability in the construction industry. Simply put, costs and supply availability are harder to predict, adding undue complications to those planning and executing construction projects. 

Every project, every client, and every contractor is different, but many are facing similar challenges. While there are no quick and easy solutions to completely predict and overcome rising costs and swift market changes, there are some things to consider that can help mitigate risk and help you overcome obstacles. 

  1. Consider alternate materials. Material acquisition is more difficult than ever as our industry feels the squeeze of supply chain shortages. It can be difficult for suppliers to provide certain building materials to contractors at certain times, and short summer construction seasons in colder climates can squeeze supplies even more. This then causes problems for owners who don’t have a backup material they would like to use for their project. When preferred materials aren’t available, have a contingency plan and substitute building materials where possible. Clear communication between contractors and owners about which substitute materials should be used is an important part of the design process.
  1. Plan ahead. It is important to plan out projects ahead of time as much as possible and stick to your timeline. Right now, suppliers are having difficulty putting materials on hold for clients. Planning ahead and coordinating with suppliers on timing of materials can make a huge difference.
  1. Be flexible and work in stages. As the road construction season comes to an end in northern states, many suppliers are out of high-demand materials, meaning a good number of projects will have to be put on the waiting list as supplies come in. If you can delay certain parts of a project and work on others to keep a project on schedule, this can help overcome temporary roadblocks. Completing the project in increments also gives the construction team enough time to complete the tasks and gives the contractor and owner time to coordinate material acquisition.
  1. Understand risk and how developers predict cost. Trying to predict project costs has become more difficult, from the price of materials to the cost of labor, and everyone is working to keep their financial risk at a minimum. Often, there is a sizable imbalance between the price it takes a contractor to complete a project and the price the contractor bids for the work. Dramatic price fluctuations have caused a great deal of frustration for owners who are confused as to why a project might be so expensive compared to the price of the same project a few months earlier. Different types of projects like design-build and construction management/general contractor, for example, come with different amounts of risk, so it’s important to think through what works best for your project. 

While there’s no crystal ball in the construction industry, common sense planning and following these tips can help mitigate risk, provide confidence to all parties involved, and set your project up for success. 

Chris spent most of his career with a regional construction company where he prepared production-based estimates in excess of $300 million annually, many of those being DOT or State-Aid. He provides the ability to analyze from the perspective of a contractor and assemble a contractor-style estimate while identifying, analyzing, and mitigating risks.

[email protected] | 651.492.3853

Tips for Safely Maneuvering Construction this Summer

By Jason Daugherty, Director of Safety and Risk Services, WSB

Between the increased number of travelers and the many road construction projects underway this summer, this time of year is one of the most dangerous times to be on the roads. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there were over five million crashes in 2020 alone and as the country moves into a post-pandemic landscape, that number is anticipated to increase.

As a Director of Safety and Risk Services at WSB, it’s my job to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep drivers, passengers and road crews safe when moving through a zone where our surveyors and engineers are working, ensuring everything from signage and lights to proper barricading is in order. There are plenty of steps drivers can take to ensure the safety of those around you as you hit the road for summer travel.

Make sure your vehicle can go the distance.

Swimsuit? Check. Sunscreen? Double check. You may have nailed your packing list, but your vehicle needs just as much attention. Make sure your tire pressure and tread are up to par, and that your spare tire is looking good too. Don’t forget to keep a break-down/emergency kit handy as well. This includes a jack and tools for any flats or blow outs that may occur.

Plan ahead.

Knowing whether there is road construction on your route is important. Check with your local Department of Transportation or city website for project updates, detours and road closures in your travel area.

Stay alert.

Don’t count on coffee to keep you vigilant while driving. You may be itching to get to your destination, but make sure you take regular breaks and get at least eight hours of sleep before hitting the road.

Adjust your speed.

Speed is the number one cause of accidents and fatalities in construction zones. Move over for parked emergency or maintenance vehicles, and slow down to 20-miles-per-hour when passing.

Practice defensive driving.

It may take a bit of a driver’s ed refresh, but defensive driving is key. Accidents in construction zones are often a result of drivers having little or no reaction time, leading to rear-end collisions. Avoid distractions, cell phones, passengers, or anything that is taking your attention away from the road. Allow plenty of stopping distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, a minimum of two car lengths.

Do NOT drive impaired.

It seems obvious but driving while under the influence is a leading cause of death in construction zones, second only to speed. If you choose to indulge, be sure to have a designated driver.

As we all look forward to summer travel, keep these tips in mind. This simple list could be the difference between getting to your destination safely, and not getting there at all.

Jason Daugherty is the Director of Safety and Risk Services at WSB and has been a safety specialist and safety manager for over 20 years in construction, pipeline, aviation, DOT, environmental, and incident/accident investigation. Jason served as the emergency response officer/safety specialist for the State of New Mexico responding to, supervising, investigation and remediating incidents related to Occupational Safety and Health.

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