Bridge Construction Project a Case Study in CNO’s Get Real, Get Better Initiative

15 September 2022

From Matthew Stinson

DAHLGREN, Va. – Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Washington cut the ribbon on a new bridge spanning Gambo Creek at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren on Sept. 8.

DAHLGREN, Va. – Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Washington cut the ribbon on a new bridge spanning Gambo Creek at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren on Sept. 8.

NAVFAC Washington oversaw the demolition of the previous bridge, built in 1932, which was structurally deficient and subject to additional transit weight restrictions. NAVFAC Washington also oversaw the design and construction of the new bridge, and the relocation of utility lines underground. Previously, the utility lines were suspended under the old bridge. The new bridge supports all vehicular traffic across Gambo Creek, both civilian and military, as well as main range operations, security, and fire and rescue. The final cost of the project was $13.9 million.

The new Gambo Creek bridge is 520 feet long. It consists of 74 pre-stressed concrete piles and 28 steel abutment H-piles, each 85 feet long. The construction team placed approximately 3,000 cubic yards of concrete and employed carpenters, electricians, iron workers, concrete finishers, plumbers, welders, heavy equipment and crane operators, pavers, engineers, project managers, and environmental planners for over 38,500 manhours.

The project was awarded in January 2020, and the construction team had to deal with numerous challenges when construction began in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team also experienced numerous supply chain issues, especially regarding concrete, which both culminated in significant scheduling difficulties.

In response, construction leaders completed two joint permit applications, one for utilities and one for the bridge. This allowed for construction and utility relocation activities to begin while the bridge design was still under review. Once the bridge design was approved, the construction team utilized a leapfrog approach to demolish the old bridge while building the new one in series behind it. To make up for even more time, the team worked with Gina Panciera, construction team supervisor, and Lt. Cmdr. Rick Forney, facilities engineering and acquisition division director at NSF Dahlgren, to adjust work schedules to evenings and weekends.

Construction schedules were again stressed in early 2022 by the herring spawning cycle in Gambo Creek, which began in Spring. Travis Wray and the NAVFAC environmental team at NSF Dahlgren developed a plan to finish work before the herring migrated into Gambo Creek to reproduce, which the construction team successfully executed.

“The partnering was unbelievable on this project. Partnering was inclusive of all the team members between NAVFAC, Naval Surface Warfare Center, the prime contractor, designer of record, subcontractors, and variety of environmental agencies,” said Walt Fowler, engineering technician. “Additionally, the designer of record took leadership in the effective facilitation of government-to-government coordination involving several regulatory agencies. Without the close collaboration between the entire team, successful completion would have been unlikely.”

Due to successful teamwork and ingenuity, the Gambo Creek bridge was finished three months ahead of schedule.

In a speech during the ribbon cutting ceremony, Fowler recognized Leslie Sherman, contract specialist, and Pat Schifflette, design manager, for all the work they each put into the project. He also recognized Mike Bohlmann, construction manager, for his incredible efforts to help get the bridge built early and on budget.

“One of the reasons we were able to accomplish this project early was because of the prime contractor,” said Bohlmann. “The project originally had sidewalks, but we were able to descope those sidewalks. We recouped a significant amount of money that would have been spent on design and construction and we were able to finish the bridge without requesting any additional funds. I wish it was my idea, but it was thanks to the partnering between the designers and the builders.”

Capt. Eric Hawn, NAVFAC Washington commanding officer, noted this bridge construction is a prime example of the Chief of Naval Operations’ “Get Real, Get Better” initiative.

“This project demonstrates a culture shift, where we assess, correct and innovate,” said Capt. Hawn. “Clearly everyone involved did all those things and even before the CNO’s ‘Get Real, Get Better’ campaign began. I want to thank everyone who utilized teamwork and partnering to solve problems. I think this bridge is beautiful, it’s really something to be proud of, and it can be a case study in doing things the right way to support this base and the warfighters.”

The construction contractor for this project was C.E.R., Inc. and the designer of record was Whitney, Bailey Cox & Magnani, LLC.

During the ceremony, the attendees shared a moment of silence for John Baxter, formerly a quality control manager with subcontractor Kokosing Construction Company, Inc., who passed away during the early stages of this project.

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