When Ulteig hired Bob Smith as the manager of construction services in 2018, it was a win-win for everyone. Bob, who works out of the Denver office, and his family, could keep enjoying all their state has to offer—and Ulteig gained Bob’s expertise in successfully managing large-scale construction projects and his intimate knowledge of Colorado road projects and their potential challenges.
“You’ve got rock fall problems, potential landslides, huge snowfall events in some parts of the state, and soils that vary from solid rock to expansive clays,” said Bob. “And then there’s simply the number of people who live and travel to our state and depend on its roadways.”
Colorado experience + CMGC expertise = big project wins
Prior to joining Ulteig, Bob had a 14-year career with the Illinois Department of Transportation before working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for nearly 18 years. As resident engineer for CDOT, he managed project teams in Denver and the I-70 corridor west of Denver up through Summit County, where he lived. While working with CDOT, one of his biggest projects included the construction of the I-70 EB Peak Period Shoulder Lane, a $75 million-dollar, award-winning, first-of-its-kind, widening and tolling project. As a CDOT project engineer, Bob managed several other high-profile projects, including the Veterans Memorial Tunnels in Idaho Springs and major upgrades to the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial tunnels that pass under the Continental Divide. His experience includes bridge replacements, sound walls, major corridor reconstructions, as well as resurfacing, lighting and traffic signals.
Now at Ulteig, Bob continues to rely on his CDOT experience, allowing his team to win larger projects than they ever have before. Among other projects, his team of 15 engineers, construction managers and inspectors are currently providing construction management on five CDOT projects. The team works on highway and bridge transportation projects for several state DOTs and municipalities. They provide services including construction management, construction inspection and owner’s representation, including for the City of Arvada’s $70 million 72nd Ave. reconstruction, which is currently underway.
The City of Arvada project is a good example of another unique expertise Bob and his team bring to Ulteig projects—the Construction Manager General Contractor, or CMGC, delivery method. Only 5-10 percent of projects are completed this way, and it offers myriad benefits to clients, including an expedited and smoother construction process.
CMGC on “Energy and Infrastructure”
Bob was recently invited to speak about the benefits of CMGC on Ulteig’s “Energy and Infrastructure” podcast. He joined Matt Hogan, vice president with Kraemer North America, and Michelle Pinkerton, senior project manager at Jacobs, on the panel.
“We use (CMGC) because there are complex projects that are served well by having the owner, designer and contractor in the room together, figuring out complex issues, rather than the low bid process where the complexities are not there,” said Bob on the podcast. “When we’ve sat around the table and talked for a year about a project, you develop that respect, and really an understanding that, hey, if something happens, we’re in it together. You can really dig into those unforeseen conditions and absolutely believe in each other that you’re going to come up with the correct redesign and fix. And it just makes it so much easier for the owner to believe that everybody’s on the same team.”
On the podcast, the panel also discussed how using CMGC over the more traditional design-bid-build process saves both time and money.
“The owner’s cost is tremendous out there. We’ve seen 20 to 30 percent cost escalation on a project that goes south, from a design-bid-build,” said Bob. “And not every design-bid-build is going to go that way. But with CMGC projects, we rarely ever have that kind of difficulty.”
A team of like-minded problem-solvers
The depth of CMGC background and experience in Ulteig’s civil group, said Bob, especially for its size, really sets the team apart. “Within our small group, we’ve been intimately involved in over $1 Billion of CMGC projects.”
The team is full of engineers who, like Bob, enjoy complex projects that truly challenge their engineering and problem-solving skills. At CDOT, Bob managed a $100 million project about 20 miles west of Denver, which involved months of blasting out a tunnel around the clock to make way for a new tunnel and roadway. The project, a favorite of Bob’s, won the Engineering News-Record’s Best of the Best in 2016.
“That’s why I chose Ulteig for the next phase of my career,” said Bob, specifically highlighting Ulteig’s culture. “There are so many amazing, talented people here who really love solving problems. And it’s simply a great place to work. We all work really hard, but we play hard, too.”
And while Bob’s version of play doesn’t involve much skiing anymore, his love for that lifestyle makes Bob empathetic to the needs of his fellow Coloradoans and the millions of people who visit his state.
“When I’m working on a road project, I know that people don’t want to wait to get where they’re going,” Bob said. “That time with your family is so precious. So it makes me want to build better designed roads that help them get there faster. And, during the construction process, it’s important to manage that process right so we can prevent as many delays as possible, because if you know Colorado, then you realize that there aren’t many options for detours through the mountains.”
The future of transportation
As Bob looks to the future, he sees a demand for better designed, smarter highway systems.
“I don’t see people giving up their cars and trucks any time soon,” said Bob. “But I do see a future where our roadways talk to our cars while in motion, providing data that allows drivers to make better decisions and to drive more safely.
“I’m really looking forward to tackling those challenges in the Colorado mountains.”