Route 79/I-195 Interchange Improvements
Fall River, Mass.
Best Project

Owner: Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation
Lead Designer/Civil/Structural/Traffic Engineer: VHB
General Contractor: Barletta Heavy Division / O&G Industries Joint Venture
Structural Engineers: CME Associates; Modjeski and Masters; Prime Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer: GEI Consultants
Landscape Architect: Copley Wolff Design Group
Public Outreach: Regina Villa Associates

Design-build delivery is credited with helping the team deliver the Route 79/I-195 interchange improvements more than seven months ahead of schedule and under budget.

The $228-million job had a high profile. The interchange is located between downtown Fall River, Mass., and the city’s waterfront and historic districts along the Taunton River.

The 37-month project called for removing and replacing structurally deficient framing while eliminating existing visual and physical barriers between downtown and the waterfront. The team was challenged to maintain schedule while working within an historic urban location.

One Best Projects judge was “wowed” by the scope and complexity of the project. “It was one of my favorites,” the judge said. “I was fascinated by this project.”

 The judge was impressed that, over three years, the team had to maintain traffic control; remove and replace 11 bridges; construct new traffic configurations; make traffic changes; and work with multiple agencies.

 The primary north-south link through the site was shut down during the project, displacing more than 50,000 vehicles daily. Fluid phasing allowed critical path construction activities to progress uninterrupted while minimizing impacts to the traveling public and adjacent communities.

To help meet its goals, the team incorporated prefabricated bridge and retaining-wall components for accelerated construction; temporary roadway ramps and interstate highway bypasses; adaptive signal controls; and a real-time traffic management system.

Throughout construction, the team encountered several unanticipated subsurface conditions. Aging utility infrastructure was often previously unidentified or of a different size and configuration than documented. Much of the infrastructure required significant repair or replacement due to its poor condition or beause there were conflicts with new systems.

Additional challenges that modified or added scope included post-contract-award changes to design standards or owner directives; extensive added structural steel and concrete repairs to the main bridge; and various aesthetic and landscaping enhancements. The contractor phased the work and used accelerated construction to accommodate the additional scope with minimal impact to the project’s critical path schedule.

The team removed 11 structurally deficient bridges, including a bi-level viaduct separating downtown from the waterfront. The Route 79/I-195 interchange was reconfigured as a primarily at-grade system, reducing its visual impact.

The scope included 10 new or rehabilitated bridges; 22 retaining walls; private and city utility upgrades; and traffic signal systems. The project also included structural steel and concrete repairs; seismic retrofits; and painting of the 5,780-ft-long Braga Bridge, which carries I-195 over the Taunton River between Fall River and Somerset, Mass.

The work improved access to the waterfront and created a more inviting and aesthetically pleasing landscape. Around historic mill buildings, the salvaged granite blocks were used as hardscape features.

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