Making Room for a Growing Wind Industry: Ulteig Oversees Construction Management of Colorado’s Highway I-76/CO 52 Intersection
July 12, 2022
Denver, Colorado – From Big Springs, Nebraska to metro Denver, Interstate 76 (I-76) is a critical, 193-mile transportation corridor that is integral to the movement of freight, cattle and dairy products. It connects the rural ranch and dairy lands of eastern Colorado with the rest of the state and markets beyond.
Along this route, in the small town of Hudson, population 2,767, where I-76 intersects with CO 52, the reality of a new type of farming compelled the need to make a change. With the growth of wind turbine manufacturing and the steady development of wind farms throughout Colorado, the Town of Hudson realized it needed to remove a bottleneck to create an easier route for turbine blades to be transported.
Based on Ulteig’s expertise in managing the construction of rural highways, and our experience partnering with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Ulteig transportation team was called upon to collaborate with CDOT and other partners to provide construction management of this major intersection to improve traffic flow and enhance traffic safety.
Change is Coming
Of course, back when I-76 was constructed in the 1960s, it’s not likely that civil engineers at the time could have foreseen the need to construct a highway to accommodate the transportation of 170-foot wind turbine blades. Manufactured at the Vestas Nacelles plant in nearby Brighton, Colorado, Vestas wind turbine blades are part of a new system of renewable energy that is fueling the transition from fossil fuels. It just so happens that CO 52, which intersects with I-76 at Hudson, posed an issue to the transportation of these wind turbine blades.
“What we really did with this project was facilitate the movement of wind turbine blades that are manufactured just west of the interstate,” said Bob Smith, PE, Manager of Construction Services at Ulteig’s Denver office. “To accommodate for the larger freight loads, CDOT and their designers decided to implement larger roundabouts so that traffic can flow more easily, and these extra-long loads can pass through. They really set us up for success with their great planning, design and public interaction efforts.”
The $11.7 million project, as reported by CDOT, was supported with matching funds from the federal government and began construction in May 2020. Construction was completed in Fall 2021.
“In addition to making it easier to transport wind turbine blades and other heavy freight, this project offered an opportunity to create a more welcoming gateway to the Hudson community,” said Smith. “Folks were very happy with the end result.”
A primary feature of the project was the construction of two oversized roundabouts, which were about two times the size of ordinary roundabouts.
“Roundabouts are becoming increasingly popular, even in rural areas such as Hudson,” said Smith. “You get the benefits of keeping traffic moving without encountering the rear-end accidents that can happen at traffic signals. Plus, roundabouts necessitate less maintenance than traffic lights in the long term. It takes a strong design, a lot of signage and the right team to find success, and we absolutely had all of that on this project.”
Other components of the project included:
- Expanding CO 52 to four lanes from two lanes at I-76
- Realigning four ramps to accommodate the new roundabouts
- Upgrading one traffic signal light
- Widening a bridge located over the interstate, which included new bike path
- Adding a sidewalk along the north side of CO 52 to increase pedestrian and bicycle connectivity
While Ulteig collaborated with CDOT and other partners to oversee construction management for the project, Castle Rock Construction of Colorado LLC handled the project’s construction.
The renovations impacted approximately a one-mile area. All ramps and roadways for the project were built using concrete from a plant that was built on-site. Concrete was used, as opposed to asphalt, to ensure the longevity and durability of the new roadway.
Compelling Solutions for New Challenges
Besides the obstacle of maintaining smooth and timely construction progress in the middle of a pandemic, the other big challenge was maintaining traffic flow on
I-76. The freeway is a significant East-West transportation route that many heavy-duty truck drivers rely upon to transport goods across the country.
“To maintain safe and undisturbed traffic flow, we enacted many temporary traffic movements, as well as extra temporary widening so we could build the new structure without stopping traffic,” said Smith. “It was absolutely the biggest challenge in construction, but nevertheless something that was a large priority for us.”
Though challenges emerged during the project, none were a match for our partners nor the expertise of the Ulteig team, who have built several roundabouts for CDOT prior to this project.
“Our team has many very experienced professionals, both in the sense that the majority of us had worked on roundabout projects before and that we are very familiar with CDOT and their standards,” said Smith. “To praise one team member in particular, we had a gentleman on our team named Ron Lowe who is extremely well qualified, with more than 30 years of experience working for the department and assisting region four (the Northeast corner of the state) in emergency management for flood recovery work.”
“After the project was completed, our team reached out to the town’s leadership, and they were very excited to have this completed,” said Smith. “We are so happy to have had this opportunity to create seamless access to this integral component of Colorado’s flow of commerce and energy.”
Ulteig: Engineering Infrastructure for a Renewable Age
Ulteig has a breadth of experience in planning, design and construction services for state transportation departments across the United States. To learn more about Ulteig’s impact on transportation in North America, visit Ulteig’s Transportation page.
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