In 2021 under the program, Burns & McDonnell was entrusted with three neighborhood grid assignments and a municipal project in areas of Detroit and Wyandotte, totaling about 60 miles of distribution main replacement design. This was the firm’s third year supporting the renewal program.
The team used a waterfall approach to execute survey, design and permitting. All assigned projects were reviewed and prioritized based on permitting duration with cities, the county, the state and foreign utilities as well as construction schedule. Under this waterfall approach, we were able to utilize a single survey company — which in combination with our quality review processes provided consistent deliverables — and stagger review meetings with DTE’s program leads.
Initiating survey work quickly was critical to the project timeline. After reviewing the project scopes, we identified the following critical path items: city and client deadlines, railroad crossings, foreign utility crossings and various permit requirements. Based on the critical path items, lidar surveying was started to capture the topography and above-grounds structures. For below-ground mapping, we contacted the Michigan utility safety notification system, MISS DIG, to obtain utility (SUE level C) atlas maps.
After surveying was completed and utility atlas maps were obtained, we could proceed with design. Our top design priority of our four assignments was a municipal-driven, 2-mile replacement that needed to be expedited due to deadlines relating to city construction activities. Next came a 19-mile replacement of distribution mains in Wyandotte. Major efforts for this project involved designing three railroad crossings with three different installation methods, including open cut, jack and bore, and horizontal directional drilling. This project was located within a municipality that had not been coordinated with previously; weekly city coordination meetings took place throughout the project. It also required permitting with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), two permits with Wayne County departments and notification to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) prior to construction.
The third neighborhood grid was a 28-mile replacement of distribution mains in Detroit that required permitting with MDOT and GLWA, as well as three permit applications with Wayne County. This project’s scope entailed more than 100 drawing deliverables. For the final project of the year, the team focused on a meter move-out project, which included a 2-mile replacement and about 300 meter move-outs. The design was within the Detroit Central Business District and required generating maintenance of site-specific traffic plans, utility crossing profiles and additional municipal departmental reviews. Because this project also crossed a steam line, a 3D radial heat transfer study was needed to determine a safe minimum offset.
Before the designs could be finalized, all of the required permits had to be approved. Upfront communications and past coordination with municipalities and other authorities enabled early implementation of design requirements, notes and standards into the design sets. Since the drawing packages incorporated design considerations for the various permitting agencies, it streamlined the process of obtaining permits with minimal feedback.