The use of 3D modeling has sparked widespread interest in the construction industry in recent years. Aside from an improved review of designs, 3D modeling can reduce rework by catching issues earlier, reducing costly mistakes. Building Information Modeling (BIM), coupled with 3D modeling, reduces errors and better meets the needs of the community during large infrastructure projects.
All of these benefits of 3D modeling with BIM have been recently seen during the new Howard Frankland Bridge project. This $865 million project that’s scheduled to be completed by 2025, contains enough materials to reach 50 miles if laid out and is being built across Old Tampa Bay—making this project a much bigger feat than a standard roadway.
So, what does incorporating BIM with 3D modeling look like for constructing large infrastructure projects like the Howard Frankland Bridge? And how will this crucial project impact the local community?
To answer these—among other questions— Gregory Deese, Resident Engineer at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), sat down with the GovDesignHub to show how 3D modeling with the use of BIM has been utilized in the construction approach for the new Howard Frankland Bridge project.
GovDesignHub (GDH): What are the main reasons behind the Howard Frankland Bridge project? How will this project positively impact the commutes of Florida citizens?
Gregory Deese: The new Howard Frankland Bridge is being built to add a higher capacity of travel for drivers headed northbound and southbound going both to and from St. Pete and Tampa with the use of two new express lanes in each direction.
In addition to the new express lane option, this project also adds a multi-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel over the bridge safely. As the old bridge, built in the 1960s, has reached the end of its service life, this new bridge will ensure dependable travel across the bay for decades to come.
GDH: Is this project being completed in phases? If so, what is involved in each phase, and in which phase is the project currently?
Gregory Deese: The Howard Frankland Bridge project is being built in three main phases. The first and current phase entails building a new bridge. Secondly, after the bridge is complete, we want to shift traffic to the new bridge from the current southbound bridge so maintenance can be completed.
The third and final phase would be to shift traffic from the northbound Bridge to the southbound bridge so the old northbound bridge can be demolished.
The 3D roadway model was used to confirm the mainline and causeway areas that connected to the bridges for constructability… — Gregory Deese
GDH: We saw the Howard Frankland Bridge is being built in a marine environment. What challenges does this pose for this project?
Gregory Deese: Weather will always be a challenge when working on the water. Sometimes what appears to be a beautiful day for most projects may have enough wind to make it unsafe to access the barges for the current project—causing the contractor to ultimately shut down operations.
GDH: Was 3D/4D modeling used for this project? If so, why is a 3D/4D BIM model important for building a bridge as large as this one?
Gregory Deese: Yes, BCC Engineering used 3D modeling of the roadway, which is a component of BIM, to confirm constructability. We used 3D modeling of the roadway but did not utilize a complete BIM approach for the bridge.
The 3D roadway model was used to confirm the mainline and causeway areas that connected to the bridges for constructability, but we did not model the bridge. The 3D roadway model was important in ensuring that all other disciplines had what they needed to finalize their designs in a timely manner, such as drainage and structures.
GDH: How do BIM models improve workflows and make the program run more efficiently? Has FDOT found that the use of BIM models has helped ensure that projects like this are completed with less rework? Has it helped keep projects like the Howard Frankland Bridge on time and on budget?
Gregory Deese: The BIM roadway 3D model that we had was used, and it greatly improved our design efficiency due to the clarity of the constructability and other disciplines being able to use the roadway model to confirm their designs.
The 3D modeling of the roadway was very helpful in completing it on time and staying within budget by eliminating the possibility of rework because we were able to fully visualize the proposed roadway work. — Gregory Deese
FDOT is still early in its transition to 3D models for projects. However, we anticipate that it will not only reduce rework but also equip contractors to build projects more efficiently by enabling more robust automated machine guidance, especially when earthwork is involved.
With that being said, the 3D modeling of the roadway was very helpful in completing it on time and staying within budget by eliminating the possibility of rework because we were able to fully visualize the proposed roadway work.