Red Barn Group

Meet Darin Stephens, PE. -A discussion on Early Utility and Earthwork Coordination as it relates to rail.

Rebekah:  Darin, tell me about your background related to rail, and the projects you’ve worked on that are considered heavy civil and are either mega-bridge or rail projects?

Darin:   My background in rail-related projects extends to 2009, beginning with the Airport Over Albro bridge retrofit. The seismic reinforcement of the bridge over the rail lines involved extensive coordination with BNSF personnel regarding everything from track access, form B implementation to getting approval for redesigned braced. I was then the construction manager for the City of Seattle on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening, which consisted of approximately 2,000 linear feet of new elevated structure with a corresponding length of seismic retrofit of the pre-existing structure. The new bridge consisted of over 70 piers and crossed over rail lines at five different points. I then managed the Lander Grade Separation project, which provided unrestricted vehicular and pedestrian/bicycle access over the most heavily used rail corridors in the State.  Finally, for the last year and a half, I have been involved with the Lynnwood Link Light Rail project between the Northgate area and the Lynnwood Park and Ride. This project is massive!

Rebekah:  What are some of the strategies you have used for managing the changes for the earth moving portion of the alignment?

Darin: The most important thing in managing changes is early and frequent checks with the Contractor to ensure that both CM and the earthmoving Contractor are tracking quantities similarly. Keeping a frequently checked and reconciled “rock log” helps to manage over-runs and dramatically improves the contract closeout final reconciliation process.

Rebekah:  When crossing right-of-way owned by multiple agencies - WSDOT and a local public agency, what was your strategy for agreeing on terms with the utilities?

Darin: The first and often most difficult step is to determine which agency has jurisdiction in a given area or on a given issue and determine how best to accommodate the needs of all the agencies while satisfying all the requirements of the agency having the controlling jurisdiction. In short, see what can be done to accommodate everyone while keeping the main focus on the requirements of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Rebekah:  Lastly, what would you recommend to keep the team solution-focused even when dealing with competing interests from multiple agencies?

Darin: The best way to keep a team solution-focused is to consistently reinforce that issues must keep moving forward to progress the job. If multiple Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) have competing interests, the best thing to do is meet to determine what will serve the public interest best and what will keep the project moving forward in a responsible manner. The enemy here is a “standards deadlock” where agencies that might have mutually exclusive interests become entrenched, and nothing happens. They have to be encouraged to look at the reason behind their agency’s standards and compare those reasons. If the ultimate reason for a standard is potential life safety, that must take precedence over a concern such as future maintenance difficulties.