Civil engineer and contractor build 3D digital bridge with Trimble model collaboration platform

For the first time, engineering and consulting firm WSB was able to meet what is becoming a benchmark in the new era of digital civil construction: 3D delivery. Working for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), WSB used Trimble’s BIM collaboration platform Quadri to facilitate a new collaborative and iterative way of working that resulted in paperless, fully digital plan delivery for MnDOT’s Highway 169 Redefine project. But that’s just the beginning of this highway’s digital journey.

Highway 169 in Elk River connects Minnesota’s central lakes region with the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area. The highway and adjacent streets in this area have exceeded capacity, creating a bottleneck for travelers.

In response, the MnDOT initiated the $158M Highway 169 Redefine – Elk River project to improve this three-mile stretch. The multi-year effort includes the reconstruction of all four lanes and adjacent road connections, four new interchanges with improved and safer pedestrian accommodations.

The constructible model in Quadri will be used for asset management, harnessing the predictive analysis within preservation. This also unifies the owner-operator as design, construction, and asset management teams who have not historically interacted and whose activities tend to be sequential instead of collaborative.

Goodbye Duplicate Data, Hello Machine-Ready Models

WSB designed the highway overhaul using Bentley’s OpenRoads, a parametric model-based design solution for developing horizontal and vertical alignments, profiles, and cross-sections, as well as underground stormwater, watermain, and sanitary sewer networks.

WSB is also working closely with Ames Construction, the general contractor for the project and a Trimble superuser, to deliver that same digital data for construction. Too often within construction, there are assumptions that the model can be used for machine control when it can not, requiring significant rework. The use of Quadri ensures that the data does not stop at the river’s edge.

Kyle Klasen, Director of Survey at WSB, said, “Historically, the workflow from the design platform into the contractor’s platform has required a lot of duplicated effort from the contractor, who essentially has to build their own models from paper plan sets and 2D design files. As everyone is moving to digital delivery, the ability to seamlessly transfer usable 3D data has become a reality.”

WSB and Ames teamed with Trimble and Bentley to assure the smooth transfer of data, largely with the use of Quadri, an integrated data model collaboration platform that drives BIM-based workflows. It’s designed to help users maximize the value of the 3D models through construction.

WSB is the first engineering design firm in the U.S. to implement Trimble’s Quadri collaboration platform “With this connection,” said Klasen, “Ames will have the ability to perform quantity takeoffs in this early phase, and, ultimately, export 3D models to their machine control systems in the field.”

Approaching Design in a Flexible, Dynamic Way

The benefit of this collaboration platform has become evident in the early design phase. In one case, the engineering team sought to raise one of the bridges by six feet. WSB and Ames were able to use that same design file to balance earthwork quantities at the different stages, reduce the number of retaining walls and even minimize noise.

Further, Peter Muehlbach, Senior Director of Transportation Program Management at WSB and project manager for the Highway 169 effort, said, “Through this cohesive and collaborative workflow, we were able to make iterative design changes such as moving a noise wall closer on a berm to reduce the wall size by half. Our team can design the iterative changes, quantify them in real-time and work with MnDOT design, construction, and maintenance to move it forward. It’s a great way to keep innovating and delivering the best possible solution.”

Currently, WSB has been able to successfully transfer data through the OpenRoads connector to Quadri, including element types. “Design data has been seamlessly transferred from ORD to Quadri thus far,” Klasen added.

Partnering for Progress

The larger benefit of this digital bridge between design and construction models, according to WSB Chief Operating Officer Jon Chiglo, is the opportunity to further enhance today’s more collaborative procurement methods.

“I think everybody recognizes that technology can really make this project more successful,” he noted, “The technology fosters a much more collaborative environment. Each of us [Ames and WSB] have already benefited in multiple ways. That’s why we brought Trimble and Bentley into the process—we knew there were some challenges there and looked to them to facilitate a resolution. I think it’s worked out well.”

The construction of this two-year conversion project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2022.

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