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Nov 15, 2022

Construction Inspections for Federally Funded Public Works Projects

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). As the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) continues to implement the BIL, jurisdictions across the country are preparing to secure federal dollars to support their state and local programs and projects.Read More

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). As the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) continues to implement the BIL, jurisdictions across the country are preparing to secure federal dollars to support their state and local programs and projects.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) works directly with FHWA and has developed statewide programs to secure and obtain federal funds for local projects. As such, they are responsible for the proper expenditure of FHWA funds and have created a manual on statewide policies and standards for local agencies to follow, titled “Local Agency Guidelines”, or LAG. The LAG identifies requirements related to prevailing wages (Davis-Bacon), Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), and Buy America, among others.

As we expect more federal dollars to flow into the Public Works sector of our business, we thought we would share some insight about a few of these requirements and how Blueline’s inspectors ensure and verify compliance.

Prevailing Wage Requirements

The US Department of Labor defines prevailing wages as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area intended employment. The requirement is that the contractor shall pay, as a minimum, prevailing wages to all employed workers that perform work as part of the project. Blueline’s inspector will conduct interviews of employees working on the project and complete a form with the necessary information to compare and verify with certified payrolls that are submitted by each contractor.

DBE Goals

Certain projects require that the successful low bidder utilize Disadvantaged Business Enterprises DBE to perform a portion of the work required by the contract, known as a “DBE goal”. WSDOT local programs will set the DBE goal at the design phase and at bidding and award, DBE certifications and participation will be verified. According to FHWA, this program is intended to ensure nondiscrimination, help remove barriers to the participation of DBEs, and assist with the development of firms that can compete successfully in the marketplace outside of the DBE program. Blueline’s inspector will conduct an “on-site review” for all DBEs that work on the project. This review includes several assessments, like checking vehicles for markings and interviewing employees. The completed and signed forms will be reviewed by WSDOT local programs for compliance with the program.

Buy America FHWA Policy

“Buy America” is another FHWA policy that provides for a domestic manufacturing process for any steel or iron products that are permanently incorporated in any project funded under Title 23. United States Code, Title 23, Chapter 3, Sec. 313 states “the Secretary of Transportation shall not obligate any funds authorized to be appropriated to carry out the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 or this title and administered by the Department of Transportation, unless steel, iron, and manufactured products used in such project are produced in the United States.” To verify compliance with this requirement, Blueline’s inspectors will visually inspect all steel and iron products that are delivered to the site and note the origin of the product. In many instances, there is a visible “Made in the USA” stamp, but all products and materials will also be verified against the material submittal sheets approved for the project.

Want to know more? Click the links below.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Prevailing Wages

DBE Program

Buy America

Oct 26, 2022

Four Things You Might Not Know About Water Main Construction

Water design often gets a bad rap for being more difficult than gravity pipe design because of the range of different fittings that are needed to complete a water system. Water fittings play a significant role in the overall constructability of your plans. We’re here to highlight a few constructability concepts that are important to keep in mind.Read More

Water design often gets a bad rap for being more difficult than gravity pipe design because of the range of different fittings that are needed to complete a water system. Water fittings play a significant role in the overall constructability of your plans. We’re here to highlight a few constructability concepts that are important to keep in mind.

1. Blocking

When water flow within a pipe changes direction such as around bends or in tees, the water creates a force called a water hammer against the pipe. Thrust blocking, made of poured-in-place concrete, counteracts this force and prevents the water main from shifting as a result of the water hammer. Thrust blocking must be placed on undisturbed earth and once placed, should not be disturbed by construction activities.

In some scenarios it is necessary to excavate behind existing blocking or place a tee in a location where blocking on disturbed earth is necessary. To secure the main from shifting in these situations we use a variety of techniques including temporary water mains, restrained joint pipe or connection sequencing.

2. Restrained Joint Pipe

Restraining is another method to secure the water main pipe from shifting. The most common way to restrain straight pipe runs is to switch out the gaskets that come from the pipe supplier in the bell end of the pipe with locking gaskets. These special gaskets have metal teeth embedded in them that grip on to the pipe like barbs, preventing the pipe from pulling apart.

Locking Gasket

To restrain pipe through fittings (tees, crosses, valves), restraining glands are used on a mechanical joint end type. Similarly to the locking gaskets, these glands have teeth that significantly increase the amount of force that can be applied without consequences, so much so that a bulldozer can be hung beneath a pipe that uses these restraining glands!

In order to secure water main using restraining so that thrust blocking is not required, we use a calculator provided by EBAA Iron, Inc. that shows how much restraining would be required on either side of your selected fitting to counteract the thrust force.

3. Temporary Water Mains

Temporary water mains are used during construction to aid in connection sequencing when service cannot be maintained because thrust blocking will be disturbed and therefore the water main cannot be kept at operating pressure. These temporary mains are constructed of PVC or HDPE pipe at smaller sizes than the permanent main. They are usually run along one side of the road in the gutter line but can also be shallow buried if they need to serve both side of the road. From the temporary main, service jumps are made, much like your typical water service in a permanent scenario. The existing water service is disconnected at the meter and the temporary service pipe is connected in its place.

Temporary Watermain

4. Flanged Fittings

Most people are familiar with flange fittings, and they seem pretty simple on the surface. But if you are not keeping constructability in mind when using these fittings, they can create quite an issue in the field. A standard water main connection usually includes two 45-degree bends (or two bends of another angle), but if you flange these bends to a fitting that needs to be plumb, such as a valve, you are limited in the amount that you can shift the bends. Connections made with two bends are not always exactly aligned with the angle of the bends, so they are rolled in the field to have some upwards or downwards angle, reducing the horizontal angle of the bend. But if the flanged bend has a plumb fitting on it, you are limited to set rotation degrees of your bend based on how the bolts on the face of the flange are spaced.

 

Sep 01, 2022

Designing for the Long-Term Health of Trees in our Urban Environment

As our communities continue to grow, one of the challenges we face is the loss of tree canopy coverage, which refers to the amount of area covered by tree foliage. The benefits of trees are well-documented – maintaining air quality, high quality of the visual environment, providing wildlife habitat, protecting streams and water bodies, and erosion prevention. However, with increased growth and urbanization a large amount of tree canopy coverage is lost as mature native trees are removed for new development and infrastructure.Read More

As our communities continue to grow, one of the challenges we face is the loss of tree canopy coverage, which refers to the amount of area covered by tree foliage. The benefits of trees are well-documented – maintaining air quality, high quality of the visual environment, providing wildlife habitat, protecting streams and water bodies, and erosion prevention. However, with increased growth and urbanization a large amount of tree canopy coverage is lost as mature native trees are removed for new development and infrastructure.

Communities are adopting specific goals and strategies to maintain and increase tree canopy coverage, including steps to preserve existing trees, replace trees that are removed, and encourage or require the planting of more trees. As civil engineers and landscape architects, Blueline helps our clients develop site plans that are consistent with these goals. Often the emphasis on tree planting is not accompanied by an equal emphasis on providing measures to encourage strong, long-term growth, resulting in trees that are stunted and in poor health. We not only help clients limit the loss of tree canopy and provide new and replacement trees but also create favorable growing environments conducive to robust growth in the long term since trees take many years to mature.

One of the most important design measures we take to promote strong tree growth is to provide an adequate volume of non-compacted, fertile, organic soil in the tree root zone. So how much soil does a tree need to reach its growth potential? For the last 30 years or so, 1000 cubic feet has been used as a rule of thumb based on research done at Cornell University. The research asserted a need for 2 cubic feet of soil for every square foot of tree crown projection, which works out to roughly 1000 ft3 for a tree with a 25-foot diameter crown. However, the 1,000 cubic feet doesn’t account for differences in water use (which the research addressed) and tree size. Trees in hotter, drier climates need more soil, as do larger tree species. A tree that needs 1000 cubic feet in New York might need 4000 cubic feet in Phoenix.

For street trees in urban environments, there is stiff competition with vehicles, utilities, and other construction limitations for space and dollars, resulting in trees often getting less than the optimum soil volume. For example, street trees are sometimes planted in tree wells as small as 4’x4’ with shallow soil surrounded by pavement over poor, heavily compacted soil, and gravel base. These soil environments lack the pore space to allow roots to access water, air, and nutrients or may have excessive moisture due to poor soil drainage and infiltration that can also deprive the tree of air. Trees in these conditions may meet the immediate need for code compliance in terms of minimum size at installation but in the long term will likely experience poor growth and fail to achieve their mature tree canopy size. In addition, tree roots in search of better soil may buckle pavement or encroach into utility trenches filled with less compact, more porous soils.

Landscape codes are increasingly including minimum soil volumes as either guidelines or requirements. According to DeepRoot Green Infrastructure, urban foresters generally adhere to the following minimum soil volumes based on mature tree size:

Small trees: 300 cubic feet

Medium trees: 600 cubic feet

Large trees: 1,000 cubic feet

The City of Seattle has a guideline of 1200 cubic feet per tree; other local Washington cities have soil volume requirements that vary according to tree size, including Bellevue (500 – 1500 cubic feet) and Tacoma (72 – 180 cubic feet with 3 feet minimum depth).

There are three ways to increase tree soil volume:

  1. Larger tree planting areas. This can mean wider tree wells in sidewalks, long continuous tree planting strips, and deeper planting soil, as much as 2-3 feet. Root corridors
  2. Structural soils. These are soils that serve the twin functions of supporting tree growth and providing a suitable base for pavement. They are a mix of  more organic, nutrient-rich soil (for the trees) and gravel (for pavement support). By using this soil under pavement, an area that would otherwise be unfavorable for tree growth adds to the total tree soil volume. Some cities have started to encourage or require structural soils in certain situations, such as street trees or around parking lot planting islands. There are different “recipes” but probably the best known is CU Soil, a proprietary blend originating from Cornell University and available locally through authorized vendors.

    Courtesy of Mary Gangso, Blueline
  3. Suspended pavement systems. These consist of a structure that supports pavement while providing void space that can be filled with high quality soil. DeepRoot defines them this way:

“Suspended pavement is a general term for any technology that supports the weight of paving, thereby creating a void space underneath. The void space is then filled with soil – either the soil that was excavated from that site or a specified mix – and the system is paved over as it would be normally. In this respect, suspended pavements are essentially soil-delivery systems, allowing lightly compacted, high-quality soils to be made available for tree roots in cities and other heavily paved environments. In addition to aiding urban tree growth, the soil is also used for on-site stormwater management, maintaining pre-development hydrology, minimizing non-point source pollution and flooding, and recharging watersheds.”

Research has demonstrated suspended pavement to be one of the most effective methods for growing trees in areas surrounded by pavement. The earliest systems, dating back to the late 1960s, were expensive custom structures, such as concrete slabs resting on grade beams.

1960’s Suspended Pavement Structure – Christian Science Center, Boston, MA A Brief History of Trees in Suspended Pavement | DeepRoot Blog

Since then, other “off-the-shelf” modular systems have been developed that are more affordable. One of the most common is generically known as “soil cells”, which are available from various manufacturers. They cost more than other methods of increasing soil volume, but their effectiveness and additional bioretention benefits can be worth the additional cost in some situations.

Courtesy of Mary Gangso, Blueline
Courtesy of Mary Gangso, Blueline

Soil cells have even been suggested to construct root corridors from tree pits to nearby soil volumes, a strategy requiring fewer soil cells and lower cost. A soil cell corridor could be constructed under a sidewalk separating a tree pit from a larger open soil area, such as a park or other open space.

By increasing soil tree volume, we can better mitigate the impacts of urbanization on tree canopy areas and provide the benefit of large, thriving trees that make such a rich contribution to our communities.

If you need assistance meeting local regulations for landscape codes or increasing tree canopy coverage, please contact us.

Nov 12, 2021

Increasing Residential Building Capacity

Cities across Washington are experiencing a housing crisis due to unprecedented growth, especially across the Puget Sound Region. A lack of affordable options has left households financially strained with limited opportunities to improve. Cities, particularly smaller ones, find themselves in a unique predicament. They’re tasked with striking a balance between the critical need to increase capacity without displacing existing residents and disrupting the community’s unique identity. To help cities address these challenges, the Washington State Department of Commerce has rolled out funding programs to ensure that everyone is housed in their communities.Read More

Cities across Washington are experiencing a housing crisis due to unprecedented growth, especially across the Puget Sound Region. A lack of affordable options has left households financially strained with limited opportunities to improve. Cities, particularly smaller ones, find themselves in a unique predicament. They’re tasked with striking a balance between the critical need to increase capacity without displacing existing residents and disrupting the community’s unique identity. To help cities address these challenges, the Washington State Department of Commerce has rolled out funding programs to ensure that everyone is housed in their communities.

In 2019, the Department of Commerce introduced a grant program funded through House Bill 1923 that allowed cities to adopt a housing action plan or implement policies that would help increase residential building capacity. These plans and policies would create allowances for more multifamily housing types within single-family zones, authorize accessory dwelling units, or allow for more flexible development of single-family lots through clustering or lot size averaging. The grant program provided funding to 66 cities, and Blueline had the pleasure of working with four of them to either implement code provisions or write a housing action plan.

In 2021, Commerce announced another round of funding for cities planning under the Growth Management Act to adopt new housing action plans or implement strategies from previously adopted housing action plans. The grant is known as HAPI (Housing Action Plan and Implementation). Cities over 20,000 in population can apply for up to $100,000, and cities under 20,000 can apply for up to $75,000. This grant opportunity has excellent timing, as cities are gearing up for their 2024 Comprehensive Plan Periodic Update. Parameters for the housing elements have become more intensive, and more analysis of a city’s housing needs is required under HB 1220, among other studies. Cities that apply for the HAPI grant will have the opportunity to kickstart this process backed by funding.

Blueline has played an extremely active role in these two grants programs. We’ve completed two housing action plans, one for the City of Arlington and another for the City of Black Diamond. We also completed code amendments for the City of Algona and the City of Sultan. Currently, we are working on completing HAPI grant applications for 12 different jurisdictions. While these two grant opportunities have ended, there is always next year!

In the meantime, if your city needs help writing and implementing code provisions to increase residential building capacity, conducting a housing needs assessment for your 2024 Housing Element, or any other housing assistance, please contact us.

Jun 03, 2021

Evaluating the New Seattle Stormwater Code

Is your Seattle Development applying for a construction permit after July 1, 2021? Let Blueline help you evaluate the new stormwater code!Read More

Is your Seattle Development applying for a construction permit after July 1, 2021? Let Blueline help you evaluate the new stormwater code!

Blueline has been working closely with Seattle Public Utilities and other industry professionals to evaluate and provide relevant feedback regarding the stormwater code change being implemented this July in Seattle. We’ve listed some relevant changes below. We’d love to discuss your new project and how these code changes can fit with your design goals.

  • Stormwater, foundation drainage, and groundwater (only permanent) may need to find a new discharge location! This type of water discharge will no longer be allowed to discharge to a ‘formerly combined’ sewer main. Discharge to a combined main will be restricted unless the project meets certain exceptions. This change may impact your project, but there are ways to come up with a cost-effective solution.
  • Is there a ditch or culvert system fronting your project? Beware – a storm main extension may still be required!
  • A standard downstream analysis will be required by a professional for any new development.
  • Detention will now be triggered if your project adds 5,000 square feet of new hard surface. A quick area take off can let you know if you are triggering detention requirements with your proposed development.
  • Non-infiltrating bioretention planter sizing factors are reducing. Applying this requirement to your site can help you find out how much bioretention square footage can be reduced.

If you need help with your project or have more questions, please contact Project Manager, Kimberly McNabb. You can also visit SPU’s Revisions Page for the full list: Updating Stormwater Regulations – Project Documents – SDCI | seattle.gov