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VOL. 41 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 18, 2017

Transportation construction basics

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Who designs and builds roads and bridges? Civil engineers do the design work. They prepare drawings, specify materials and address safety issues for construction workers and the traveling public while the work is being done. The civil engineers may be employed by the state to design the project, or the state may turn to private companies. Most states use both methods.

Construction companies use the plans to build the road or bridge. On most projects, the state will ask qualified construction companies to submit a bid for what they will charge to complete the project. The low bidder is selected.

In recent years, some states have built projects under what’s called a “design-build” approach in which the same company performs both design and construction work. This can often speed project delivery and lower costs because some preliminary construction work can be done while project details are still being designed.

What about jobs in the construction industry? The main employers are state and local departments of transportation, private engineering and design firms and private construction companies. There’s a broad variety of available jobs for all available levels of education and skill.

State and local transportation departments employ civil engineers, transportation planners to determine infrastructure needs, contract managers, inspectors, auditors and finance officers, information technology professionals, construction managers, office and clerical workers, and in Tennessee at least, laborers. Most of these occupations require a college degree and some require advanced training. Salaries and benefits match those of similar professions.

Construction companies provide greater career opportunities in the construction occupations, and they also employ the management and professional workers that state departments of transportation employ. In addition to positions listed under transportation departments, construction companies hire project managers, estimators, safety and environmental compliance managers, purchasing agents, heavy equipment operators and truck drivers, skilled crafts workers, marketing and communications workers, and laborers.

Educational requirements vary by occupation, with most requiring at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Skills can be developed in training courses and on the job. Salaries are very competitive with similar jobs in manufacturing and well above those in many service industries.

What materials are used to build roads and bridges? The principal materials used in highway and bridge construction include asphalt, aggregates, concrete, cement and steel.

How much does it cost to build a mile of road? Construction costs per mile of road depend on location, terrain, type of construction, number of lanes, lane width, durability, the number of bridges and a host of other factors. New roads are more expensive than adding lanes or repairing. It’s more expensive to build in urban than rural areas and in hilly terrain, as opposed to flat land.

Source: American Road and Transportation Builders Association website, Frequently Asked Questions, www.artba.org/about/faq