Stacy and Witbeck – Gilbert Road Light Rail Extension

Stacy and Witbeck picStacy and Witbeck’s light rail project features a roundabout that will alleviate traffic congestion.
By Alan Dorich

When Stacy and Witbeck arrives on a project site, they concentrate on delivering the best outcome. “We have a lot of high-quality people who really focus on the customer and the community,” Project Manager Jennifer Donaldson says.

The company brings this focus to its Gilbert Road Light Rail Extension project in Mesa, Ariz. The project, she explains, is a 1.7-mile extension of the Valley Metro Light Rail system that will add one park-and-ride and two stations.

But the most distinctive feature, she notes, will be a four-way roundabout with the light rail traveling through it. “There’s a similar, three-way roundabout in Utah,” Donaldson says, noting that Stacy and Witbeck built that roundabout.

Project Partners

Stacy and Witbeck, joint ventured with Sundt Construction, is the construction manager at-risk on the project for Valley Metro. The two companies began working together in 2004 to pursue work on the light rail projects.

Together, the contractors built several of the light rail’s original segments, a maintenance and storage facility, several park-and-rides, and its Northwest extension. “Our companies complement each other very well,” Donaldson says, noting that both are employee owned.

“[Sundt is] one of the major heavy civil contractors in the Phoenix area,” she adds. “We brought the rail experience and it’s been a great partnership ever since.”

New Territory

Stacy and Witbeck/Sundt won the contract for the Gilbert Road project in October 2015. At the time, Donaldson recalls, the project was only 30 percent designed.

“We spent a year providing estimates, design comments, value engineering suggestions and constructability reviews,” she says, noting that construction began in 2016. “Our substantial completion date is in 2019.” Stacy and Witbeck box

Work has yet to begin on the roundabout.  “No one knows what to expect when the roundabout is in service,” Donaldson admits.

The roundabout, located at Main Street and Horne in Mesa, will reduce time for left-hand turns and facilitate a smoother traffic flow.

Another unique aspect of this project is the effect the light rail will have the on the road. “Usually, when light rail is added, the road is widened,” she says. “On this one, we’re actually narrowing the road to one lane in each direction to minimize the right-of-way acquisitions and the purchase of property.”

A Safe Site

Stacy and Witbeck and Sundt are keeping safe as they build the extension. In addition to employing a full-time safety manager, all workers are required to attend a three-hour orientation before they set foot on the project site, Donaldson says. This includes subcontractors, the owner and city representatives, and third-party utilities.

Additionally, “Every Monday, we have a mass safety meeting for everyone that will be on site that week,” she says. The project also created a safety committee that consists of craft, foremen, superintendents, subcontractors and engineers. “They get together, walk the job, discuss issues that need attention and make suggestions for improvement.”

The committee also votes to nominate a safety crew of the month. “we thought it was important that the nomination for the safety crew of the month come from the guys building the project,” Donaldson says. “We also have special, individual recognition if someone goes above and beyond, has a lot of pride in their work and it shows.”

A Civil Specialist

Based in Alameda, Calif., Stacy and Witbeck started operations in 1981 by performing heavy civil construction in San Francisco. Its first projects included restoring the San Francisco Cable Car line on California Street.

Although the company found success with heavy underground construction projects, it focused primarily on rail and transportation in the early 1990s. Today, Stacy and Witbeck is one of the largest urban heavy civil contractors in the nation as well as a leading light and commuter rail and streetcar transit specialist.

Donaldson, who joined the company three years ago, says learned lessons from the early phases of the Gilbert Road project, include getting as much of the background tasks complete as early as possible. “There’s a lot of paperwork needed to support these projects,” she says.

By doing more ahead of time, “You have flexibility during construction,” Donaldson says, noting that she will push this strategy on future projects. “It really just [involves] communication, understanding everyone’s expectations, and outlining their goals and opportunities so everyone is working towards the same goal.”

Keeping Busy

The Arizona market is busy, Donaldson says. She credits some of the activity to a transit tax the city of Phoenix passed in 2015 to fund a $30 billion program, partially for road transportation and light rail additions.

“Valley Metro and the city of Phoenix have been aggressive in getting those projects out sooner than later,” she says, noting that a major highway is also being constructed around the south side of the city. “The city is very busy in the construction world right now.”

Stacy and Witbeck hopes to win some of that work, Donaldson says.

The company will maintain its strong team as it takes on those projects. “It really is a good group of people,” she says. “We are hard workers who all take a lot of pride in what we do.

“We want to give the owner a project that they can be proud of, and that we are proud to show our kids,” Donaldson says. “The future looks bright.”

Strong Subs

Stacy and Witbeck has a good relationship with its subcontractors on the Gilbert Road Light Rail extension project. “We make them part of everything we do,” Project Manager Jennifer Donaldson says. “We set expectations and our subs are great about meeting them.”

Stacy and Witbeck is utilizing a mix of local, regional and national subs on the project. “Our utility and civil subcontractors are locally based,” she says. “Some of the more specialized systems subcontractors are from out of town.”

A Valued Partner

Stacy and Witbeck provides construction and management services on rail and transportation projects. “We specialize in best value procurement opportunities on challenging projects where we can use our expertise to work collaboratively with project owners and designers to identify opportunities for constructability and value engineering solutions and achieve schedules that reduce costs and minimize revenue downtime,” it says.

The company’s focus on project goals has earned it a reputation as a “go-to” contractor. “Our talented workforce has experience in all aspects of construction including earthwork, utility work, structures, bridges, rail work, systems and systems integration,” Stacy and Witbeck says.

“We take pride in our superior client service, consistent construction excellence and responsiveness to community concerns,” it says. “Our safe, prompt, efficient and fair construction practices have made us a valued partner, contractor and employer.”

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