Safety is Key to Complex Airport People Mover Project


A project-of-the-year finalist, and the only project to win in two categories, this automated people mover for Sky Harbor International Airport includes three stations and 12,000 linear ft of guideway, of which 9,000 ft is elevated. The project serves 80% of the airport's more than 40 million annual passengers via stations at the busiest terminal, the largest parking area and a nearby Phoenix Light Rail connection.

In a first for any airport in the world, the guideway runs 80 ft above a very busy taxiway for planes as large as a Boeing 747. Crews only had five months to complete this critical 340-ft-long section of track.

"The entire project team worked together to rigorously design, plan and execute the work in a manner that kept airport operations and public safety as top priorities," says Allan Bliesmer, operations manager with Hensel Phelps.

To reduce traffic obstructions, the team used precast concrete girders for the structure, in lieu of cast-in-place concrete, to avoid the use of obtrusive shore towers. Forming systems were custom designed to produce concrete columns and corbels that were finish-grade and did not require further cladding or treatment. Crews worked off-peak hours and prefabricated large sections of materials whenever possible to minimize installation time and reduce risk.

The project team had to contend with redeveloping a polluted industrial site and avoid a nearby historic landmark. "The underground work was risky due to vast amounts of existing underground utilities, and the native soil contained large cobbles that complicated drilling," says Mark Pilwallis, design manager with Gannett Fleming.

Local subcontractors were awarded 98% of the work, and 22% were small business enterprises.

Hensel Phelps conducted site-specific orientations for more than 4,400 employees from more than 300 subcontractors. Extra safety meetings were held for specific features of work such as the demolitions and critical lifts. A detailed safety plan was established and reviewed by all. The safety manager and safety audit teams conducted daily inspections to provide constant feedback.

Detailed hazard analysis was done on each scope of work, and a plan was developed to mitigate hazards before they happened, says Larry Wright, district safety director for Hensel Phelps. "Safety is more than a legal obligation; it's a moral obligation we have to ourselves, our families, our co-workers and our employer," he says.

The team logged 3.5-million man-hours of craft work during the project with no lost time incidents, and the people mover was delivered on time and under budget.

Key Players

Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Phoenix

Owner: City of Phoenix, Phoenix

Lead Design/Structural Engineer: Gannett Fleming, Phoenix

Civil Engineer: Kimley-Horn & Associates, Phoenix

MEP: Dinter Engineering Co., Reno, Nev.; CR Engineers, Fountain Hills, Ariz.

Architectural Design: HOK Inc., Culver City, Calif.; Fore Dimensions, Phoenix

Submitted by Hensel Phelps Construction Co.