West Merced Overhead Project on State Route 99

Research Statement: create a model-based approach to associate identifying ontology codes to (a subset is validated) construction actions and pragmatically validate the approach in the heavy construction domain. The resulting approach will be delivered as an excel add-on macro with supporting documentation and course-modules. This approach is compatible with existing virtual design and construction software and technologies, and the existing heavy construction practices.

Principal Investigator: Professor Martin Fischer
Reading Committee: Professor Burcu Akinci
Reading Committee: Assistant Professor Michael Lepech
Research Assistant: Forest Peterson

Collaborative Organization: RGW Construction
Expert Support: numerous professionals provide milestone review and donate their time and knowledge to resolve technical questions.
Funding Organization: The Stanford University Center for Integrated Facility Engineering Technical Advisory Committee seed funding and the Homer and Joyce Olsen Fellowship.

Stimulus funds at work on highway 99, image courtesy Marci Stenberg, Merced Sun-Star.

Preliminary Results Presented at the Transportation Visualization Symposium, Irvine, CA. October 23-25, 2013 http://youtu.be/3k3LprNcFpA

Project Summary

NAICS Code: Construction, Heavy & Civil Engineering, Highway, Street, and Bridge

West Merced Overhead [aka: Overpass] Project on State Route 99 - 10-0K0204
Owner: District 10 - Stockton
Scope: demolitions, bridges, retaining walls, earthwork fills, and roadways.
Scheduled for completion spring 2012
Estimated cost: $34.3 million to $44.3 million

The Merced Highway 99 project is located in the Southern portion of the Californian Central Valley, a region known for hot arid summers and large expanses of irrigated agricultural fields. The CalTrans District 10 project consists of a road and rail overpass, a bridge over a creek, retaining walls to elevate the roadway from it's current state, and concrete barriers topping the walls. The roadway is asphalt. The highway traffic must be accommodated during construction and so the project is phased into North and Southbound lane closures with a temporary roadway on top a soldier pile retained elevated roadway down the center of the highway alignment.

This project has been selected by the Stanford University CIFE research group as a field implementation of Civil VDC based on two core criteria. First the contractor constructing the project, RGW, is an innovative organization that often incorporates construction methods and company strategies that are untested before adoption by competitors. Through the research done by Professor Tatum, innovative organizations are those with a culture that tolerates experimentation and failures and allows the character roles of visionary, iconoclast, champions, and gatekeeper. Second, the RGW engineers collaborating with the Civil VDC research project, based on typical research constraints, through their expert knowledge, believe this project has the right attributes bundle of project team, scope, work-type, project documents, and accessibility. Several engineers at RGW are graduates of the Stanford University Construction Engineering & Management program, and therefore are familiar with the research at the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE). For these reasons, we feel that the MER99 project is a good fit for a field experiment.

Project Information (publicly available)

Project Specific

press release “Recovery Act Provides Nearly $30 Million for Merced County”
press release: utility relocation
press release “Work begins on highway overcrossing of West 16th Street”
MER99 Project Fact Sheet
Recovery .org
Highway ramp closures
Project special conditions

Project Independent

Experiment Plan Summary

The gist of the experiment plan is to dimensionally build a 3D geometric model from the 2D plans provided by Caltrans, link this with quantities and scheduling and costing software tools and provide this as a resource to the project engineer. The scheduling tool is a location-based, line of balance user display, resource loaded, and production based format. This is uncommon in the heavy construction industry.

  • Why Line-of-balance: work flow visualization aids with developing a realistic project activity plan
  • Why production-based: forecast of activity as specified time and location and integrated productivity functions allows more precise schedule updates.

The experiment sequence follows three parts:

  1. First, the VDC modeling will be completed by the research assistant. The reliance on the research assistant to model the 3D geometry is a potential weakness since he has several weeks of modeling experience. The geometric model will then be linked with a line-of-balance schedule and production-based estimating tool.
  2. Second, a trial period of two months will allow for calibrating and tuning the integrated model-based system.
  3. Last, after the calibration period, an add-on field activity identification application will be tested with the integrated model-based system serving as the test platform.

Technical and resource underpinnings

This experiment rests on several technical and resource underpinnings, these are:

  • Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), this is a model-based method of project management through an integrated system of the scope, time, cost, quality, organization, applied resources, and collaboration.
  • The project engineer will provide support with questions about the project.
  • We will follow the Civil VDC guidelines developed from existing publications, BIM consulting, and lab-based experiences to implement the model-based system.
  • Isolating the contractor from the technical requirement cost during the preliminary knowledge building aspects of the guidelines
  • The contractor's innovative characteristic satisfied the guideline recommendations.
  • The hardware requirements have been resolved and the CIFE research group will provide hardware.

The detailed project plan, resources, and goals are on the MER99 project plan wiki page

Integrated Model-based System

The purpose of the VDC model is for scheduling, visualization, and costing. Therefore, the 3D model is not anticipated to be used for layout or have an application in performance simulation or regulatory code checking, allowing for a simplified model.
The existing surface presents the geometry of the sweeping overpass embankment curve and cutouts for drainage beneath the roadway in two locations. This surface took a considerable amount of effort to change from a 2D topographical dwg to a suitable import for a 3D mesh. The elevation lines had gaps and crossing ends that required correcting, and the software required that the lines were one continuous loop requiring joining the ends of many segments. Areas of the project profile were incomplete or had conflicting elevation lines due to merging elevation plans from several surveys, aerial photographs, and what looked like a edge detection software had been used - that needed some thought to reason out into a realistic elevation profile.

mer99_02.jpg mer99_04.jpg
These screenshots from the preliminary tests of Autodesk's AutoCAD Civil 3D show the retaining walls and proposed roadway at the new elevation 3-meters higher than the previous roadway. At this point it seemed like all that was needed was to add some fills and a few 3D objects for mass concrete items. The model was rebuilt several times after this, each increasingly more complex as various hurdles were encountered that required a new approach.

This is the current state of the 3D model as of 8/26/2011; this is not complete but is nearing completion.


Merced Highway 99 Project (MER99) experiment 3D model, this is the location-based 3D scope subcomponent of an integrated model-based experiment platform that includes the scope quantities, and the time process model which is resource-based and production based. For the MER99 experiment we have elected to not include the cost component as a measure of value and instead rely on the expert opinion of the project engineering staff to determine the value of a candidate plan. Note that this C3D model is in inch model space units not the standard foot or meter.

A subcomponent of the integrated model-based system is the Geographical Information System (GIS), the Google Earth kmz file is here http://stanford.edu/~granite/MER99_RGW_CIFE_09.2_09.kmz - to view import this file to google earth. Note that this is an older version of the 3D model.

See Also


granite/mer99.txt · Last modified: by forest.peterson
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