As we start the new year, one thing we like to do at TBM is ask experts in the field about their thoughts on the market. Are they optimistic? What are their concerns? How are things changing?
This year’s panel included Dawn Dobson of Barnard Construction, David Field of Mott MacDonald, Brian Gettinger of Freese and Nichols, and Bruce Matheson of Terratec. In general, they are optimistic about the future of tunneling in North America, citing numerous programs across the continent covering all sectors. Yet, critically, funding and political support remains a challenge.
As the industry to continues to evolve, new technologies and improved contracting and risk management practices are leading to more successful projects that in turn open the door for further expansion of the market.
Bob Frew of AECOM discusses the use of large-diameter TBMs and their impact on the market, as well as the ongoing development of related technologies, including lining design, monitoring and control systems, and techniques for simplifying tool changes. The use of large-diameter tunneling is fully established overseas and now seems to have a growing appetite in North America as well.
Cyrill Althuser of Jackcontrol discusses new technology for microtunneling that are allowing for longer and curved drives. Until recently, curved drives were not (intentionally) built in the United States, but since 2010 there have been an increasing number, allowing elimination of intermediate shafts and lowering costs. Additionally, we are seeing longer drive lengths, including the completion of U.S. record 3,947-ft drive in Painesville, Ohio, in May 2019 – a substantial increase over the previous U.S. record of 3,000 ft set in 2008 in Portland, Oregon. In 2018, Terratest set the world-record mark of 7,360 ft on a gas pipeline project in Mexico.
With regard to contracting and risk management, Erika Moonin of the Southern Nevada Water Authority provides an overview of the authority’s Intake No. 3 program. The program included a new intake structure, conveyance tunnel and pumping station to ensure a supply of water to Las Vegas. This program included underground construction in challenging geology under high water pressures. Moonin outlines how the agency partnered with its contractors to create a partnering atmosphere and keep the project moving forward. Her article can be accessed here.
Wishing everyone a prosperous 2020!
Jim Rush, Editor/Publisher, TBM