Granite Gives Texas Travelers a Little Elbow Room

Another major step in easing highway congestion along Texas’ busy Interstate 35 corridor was recently taken with the awarding of a $34.2-million construction project to California-based Granite Construction Company. The project involves the widening of 13.5 miles (21.7 km) of the highway near Georgetown, TX, approximately 30 miles north of Austin.

This area of Interstate runs north from Lakeway Drive at the edge of Georgetown to Farm Road 487 in Jarrell, Texas. The contract was awarded to Granite Construction Company by the Texas Transportation Commission at the Commission’s June 29th meeting. Granite Construction Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Granite Construction Incorporated based in Watsonville, CA.

Construction began in September and is scheduled for completion in December of 2002. When complete, the project will add a third lane in each direction of Interstate 35. It will also involve the construction of two new bridges, the widening of eight existing bridges, the laying of 380,000 tons (342,00 t) of asphalt-concrete pavement and all associated drainage work.

“We’ve just gotten kicked off with the project, and we’re actively working on the south third right now,” said Granite Construction’s Austin manager Mark Leintz. “We’re doing the work in three phases, each representing about a third of the entire project.”

Work will progress from south to north, and is initially focused on the addition of the third lane in each direction. The additional lanes are being constructed between the existing lanes of traffic.

During construction, concrete median barriers were erected along both sides of the highway, with crews actively working behind the barriers. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which will oversee the project, anticipates little impediment to traffic during construction.

Part of the job will involve a pilot project using pre-cast, pre-stressed, post-tensioned pavement along a test section of the frontage road. This test project is a cooperative effort between Granite Construction, TxDOT and the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin. The Center is one of the nation’s leading university-based transportation research facilities.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” Leintz explained. “We will be laying the pre-cast, pre-stressed, post-tension pavement material along 2,300 ft. (701 m) of frontage road. This will give TxDOT and the Center for Transportation Research an opportunity to evaluate its performance and endurance.”

The pilot project is part of the first phase of the job, Leintz said. The remaining portions of frontage road, as well as the existing main lanes of the highway, also will be resurfaced as part of the project.

Since the resurfacing process will raise the level of the roadway, Granite also will need to raise five existing overpass structures to maintain clearance. This will require the crossings to be jacked up and new supports to be added.

The Granite project is one in a series of highway construction projects aimed at improving capacity along the busy corridor. The goal of the series of projects is to provide three traffic lanes in both directions through the cities of Round Rock and Georgetown and to the end of Austin TxDOT’s jurisdiction at the Williamson County line. From that point north, TxDOT’s Waco District will improve the interstate.

In developing the plans to enhance highway capacity, TxDOT engineers noted the increased volume of traffic along the once-rural stretch of interstate. Planners cited a rising number of traffic accidents and congestion in recent years in establishing the need for added highway capacity in the area.

Granite Construction is organized into two operating divisions. The Branch Division is comprised of regional offices which serve local markets and the Heavy Construction Division, which is responsible for the Georgetown project, pursues major infrastructure projects throughout the nation.

The Heavy Construction Division typically handles large civil projects with contract amounts in excess of $15 million and a duration of greater than two years. These projects include highways, dams, tunnels, rapid transit, bridges, pipelines, and canals. There are estimating offices in Texas, Georgia, and Florida, and the division utilizes a large equipment fleet, including grading and paving equipment; concrete plants and maintenance equipment.

Granite Construction, with 1999 revenues of $1.3 billion, is one of the largest builders of roads, dams, bridges, and other infrastructure-related projects in the nation. Granite is also a major producer of rock, sand, gravel, asphalt and other construction materials.

Employing more than 4000 people nationwide, Granite Construction was founded in 1922.

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