With about six months to go on the DFW Connector, Rob Anderson — like everyone else in the area — is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the massive road project.
As deputy project director for NorthGate Constructors, Anderson has overseen the Connector from its beginning in 2010. He is one of the two top directors of the project, and the one who has served as liaison with the City of Grapevine. A Keller resident, he has 23 years of experience with Kiewit Construction, one of the companies that forms NorthGate.
And the Connector is not his biggest job to-date. Anderson also worked on the reconstruction of Interstate-15 in Salt Lake City for the Olympics, a project that would cost around $3 billion in today’s dollars and involved 144 bridges, compared to $985 million and 39 for the Connector. The work here should be finished in July — a year ahead of schedule.
What have been your biggest challenges on the Connector?
It varies as you go through a project. At the very start, it was getting all the right of way and utilities acquired. The main thing is sequencing the traffic so you can maintain the same number of lanes, same amount of access during construction while you’re under construction. Some people kind of make it akin to rebuilding a jet engine in flight, because you’ve got to keep everything going while you’re rebuilding the entire infrastructure.
What’s a typical workday like?
I try to spend as much time in the field as I can, but usually I get bogged down with things in here. We’ve got so many good people on this job it’s really been a pleasure.
How many people do you oversee and how do you do it?
We peaked at 550 direct employees. Add subs and suppliers, you’re in the 850 range in a given day. It’s tiered. We’ve divided the job up into disciplines. We’ve got a person who looks after all the bridges, another person who looks after all the concrete paving, another looks after the grading. … You can’t have 600 people looking to you every minute saying ‘What do I do next?’
But we run it as one job. It’s pretty tight. The top guys meet daily, every day at 1 o’clock, which works pretty well because we do two shifts. There’s a large amount of work that goes on here at night.
What are your priorities?
It’s about maintaining traffic and still keeping safe work areas and allowing safe passage for people that get through the project.
What would you say to people who are unhappy about delays?
If we didn’t use this method you’d be experiencing this type of delays for 20 years. So if you look at it that way, you’re taking this amount of construction and compressing it into a time frame of three years to deliver a product that’s going to be congestion-free for 30 years.
There are times when we close the freeway down during the nights and during the weekends when that typically wouldn’t happen, and those are painful … if you’ve got a soccer game in Plano and you live in Southlake, there’s always that — it’s going to happen. It’s unfortunate.
All I can tell you is, it’s about done. You’ll be able to go through this job so fast you won’t even recognize it this time next year.