A Winning Combination: President George Bush Turnpike

A Winning Combination: President George Bush Turnpike

Three Dimensional "prism panels"
MSE Precast Retaining Wall
Grand Prairie, TX
North Texas Tollway Authority
Prairie Link Constructors
AECOM Technical Corporation (Primary)


A Winning Combination 161 Toll Road - Design-Build

Location: Grand Prairie, TX

The President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) is a 52-mile toll road which passes through three Texas counties (Dallas, Collin and Denton) and nine Dallas suburbs (Rowlett, Sachse, Garland, Richardson, Plano, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving and Grand Prairie). Named after the 41st President, this roadway is owned and operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). During the past 15 years, The Reinforced Earth Company (RECo) has designed and supplied over 1.2 million square feet of MSE wall, 25 miles of coping, 200,000 square feet of drill shaft/soil nail fascia and 100,000 square feet of soundwall along this corridor.

In October of 2012, a 6.5 mile extension of the PGBT was opened to traffic. This extension, also known as 161 Toll Road, connects Interstate 30 and Interstate 20 in Grand Prairie. To accelerate the delivery of this project, NTTA employed its first use of Design-Build contracting methods. The project was awarded to Prairie Link Constructors (PLC) for a construction price of $416 million. PLC is a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Infrastructure (40%) and Fluor EPCM Services (60%). AECOM Technical Corporation served as the primary engineering firm for PLC.

A total of 45 bridges, 2 major interchanges, 500,000 square yards of paving and 4,000,000 cubic yards of earthwork stood between award of the project and its completion. Not to be outdone, there was also a vast quantity of retaining walls required. RECo was selected to supply 676,000 square feet of MSE wall, 194,000 square feet of fascia wall and 58,000 linear feet of coping.

As the project began, multiple coordination meetings were held between PLC and RECo’s engineering, project management, manufacturing and contracting personnel. Not only did RECo’s personnel already possess valuable experience on Design-Build projects in general, but they had already worked closely with the same PLC team members on the SH 130 Design-Build project near Austin. So in the course of coordinating the numerous issues facing the PGBT Design-Build team, their previous experience of working together proved valuable in the form of the confidence and trust that already existed between all parties.

During the course of the design, there were several revisions. In addition to geometric changes to various structures, there were several instances of conversion of wall types (i.e. Fascia Walls to MSE Walls and vice versa). There were even instances of the conversion of Cast-In-Place walls to Fascia walls. These changes were implemented by PLC to provide the most economical solution or to optimize some schedule or logistical challenge – which ultimately translated into dollars. In addition, some design changes were necessary to accommodate actual field conditions. Whether RECo was responding to one of these changed conditions, or whether RECo was just cranking out the large volume of shop drawings required by these vast quantities, RECo’s Engineering Department always responded promptly and with a focus upon PLC’s needs.

The aesthetic requirements for the wall panels consisted of a blend of flagstone form liner panels and three dimensional “prism panels”. The color of all precast products was required to be the natural color of the concrete. However, NTTA also specified that each precast element be consistent in color. This required careful quality control measures at RECo’s precast plant, where a light sandblast was also applied to aid in consistency of color.

Initially, the wall erection schedule was less aggressive than originally anticipated. But as delivery demands increased, RECo’s precast plant in Waco was capable of keeping pace, despite the constraints of performing sandblast operations for a large quantity of precast items. While all material was delivered in conformance with PLC’s schedule requirements, RECo faced its greatest challenge in the production of the very last precast walls on the project. Those walls were originally designed as cast-in-place, but with little lead time they were converted to precast Fascia walls. To compound the situation, the completion of those walls was required only a few weeks before the roadway was scheduled to open. In addition, the weather was not very cooperative. Whereby, some casting and sandblasting was done under tarps - in the rain - to ensure that PLC’s needs were met. Through some extreme measures on their part, the management staff and crews at RECo’s Waco plant delivered those walls on-time and the roadway opened to traffic as scheduled.  This favorable outcome would not have been possible if not for the close communication between PCL and RECo’s Engineering, Project Management and Manufacturing Departments.

As an added bonus, PLC completed the project without a single lost time incident. In fact, that safety record played a role in Balfour Beatty’s internal award to Mr. Dan Young of their very first Relentless Ally Award. So in addition to coordinating numerous retaining wall issues with RECo, Mr. Young was also busy fostering safe practices on the project. RECo shares PLC’s emphasis upon safety and applauds everyone at PLC for that remarkable achievement.