Project: Salem Creek Connector
Awarded: January 26th, 2019
On January 26th of this year, Blythe Construction received the Carolinas AGC 2018 Pinnacle Award for Best Highway Project over $5 Million. The ceremony, which took place in Charleston, SC, was part of the CAGC’s 98th Annual Convention to honor projects that both advance the construction industry and enhance regional communities. This year’s Pinnacle Award marks the third in Blythe’s company history, and much like the previous two, it’s a bit of hard-earned recognition for a project with many challenges.
Completed in December of 2017, the Salem Creek Connector was more complex than any previous design-build project undertaken by Blythe Construction for the North Carolina DOT. The project consisted of railroad components, eight bridges, and multiple aesthetic features including the Winston-Salem Gateway Arch. In total, nearly five years of continuous work by Blythe Construction crews went into finishing the project, whose contract value exceeded $88 million.
The Salem Creek Connector was designed to better connect downtown Winston-Salem with the Research Triangle Corridor. The majority of the work was conducted in the historic Happy Hills neighborhood, within an area of approximately four square miles centered on US Hwy 52. The confined workspace was just one obstacle in a project characterized by challenges, not least of which was coordinating traffic in one of the most heavily travelled areas of the city. The NCDOT contract stipulated that traffic on Hwy 52 be maintained during every phase of construction. To accomplish this, Blythe implemented a complex traffic control plan that included numerous lane shifts and temporary diversions.
To complicate operations even further, not only was vehicular traffic maintained, but daily railroad activity of Winston-Salem’s Southbound trains couldn’t be interfered with either. The Salem Creek project included replacing two railroad bridges that were travelled twice daily by trains. In order to maintain the rail schedule, Blythe constructed temporary tracks to divert train activity during replacement of the primary tracks.
Since its completion, the project has garnered a fair amount attention. Prior to receiving the CAGC Pinnacle Award, Blythe Construction received the ACEC Engineering Excellence Award for the same project on November 8th, 2018. Brian Webb, Senior Vice President at Blythe Construction, is appreciative of the recognition but says the Pinnacle Award is a special honor because of who gives it.
“The committee consists entirely of previous Pinnacle Award winners,” he explains. “It’s an award given to us by our peers in the construction industry, who understand the challenges of the project. They know better than anyone what we have accomplished, so it is a great honor and a compliment to be recognized in this way.”
Webb says that while the CAGC and the ACEC awards are encouraging, Blythe’s approach moving forward will remain focused on what the company does best. “We are typically very selective about the contracts we pursue,” he says, “especially design-build projects like the Salem Creek Connector, because they carry a substantial amount of risk. They are not occasions to experiment. You have to know what you’re capable of.”
In fact, he says, Blythe would not have considered the Salem Creek project if it hadn’t been capable of performing all the work itself. “As a contractor, we know what we do well—that happens to be this kind of high-traffic, complex project. With Salem Creek, we knew that we would perform most everything ourselves without having to subcontract large portions of the work. This allowed us to control our destiny, so to speak.”
Special congratulations to Project Manager Eric Becker and the Blythe Construction crew members who made the Salem Creek Connector project a success.