Success of Alaskan Projects depends on Quality Assurance

June 18, 2018

Reliable materials verification crucial to public projects

Alaska, land of extremes. . . extreme landscapes, extreme natural beauty, extreme wildlife, extreme topography, and some of the most extreme transportation infrastructure construction conditions in the nation. Infrastructure projects that occur in the State of Alaska are faced with many challenges that are typically not encountered in the lower 48 states.

Understanding the Complexity of Material Logistics

Design, engineering, logistics, and construction challenges for infrastructure projects include temperatures that can reach sixty degrees below zero, winds that reach hurricane force, glaciers release river tsunamis, and local wildlife comes to call with grizzly bears ready to “play” on project sties, sea lions take up residence on the construction barge, and local moose populations see nothing wrong in rearranging carefully-placed traffic control devices.

Steel components bound for projects in Alaska undergo lengthy transit times. They are often milled and manufactured in one state, fabricated and assembled in another, galvanized or painted in any number of states, then transported by truck or railcar to ports on the West Coast, and finally barged to ports or docks in Alaska. Once the structures or components have arrived in Alaska, after thousands of miles of transport, some of them are then transported to some of the most remote and desolate locations on the planet, including the small islands along the Aleutian chain, high mountain passes, the barren tundra of the North Slope, and the coastal fjords of the South Alaskan Coast.

The difficult and expensive transport of materials to Alaska makes it especially important that materials are correct when they arrive. If a replacement or modification to a structure or component is needed, it may prove to be catastrophic to a project in terms of funding, time, and/or loss of service. In these circumstances, materials verification is critical.

Verifying Quality in Extreme Environments

Since 1999, Mayes Testing Engineers, A Terracon Company, has provided quality assurance services to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities through multi-year term agreements on more than 350 infrastructure projects. Essentially, the Mayes team functions as the state inspector for all fabrication that occurs in the lower 48 states. Services cover a range of disciplines such as fabrication shop auditing/inspection, submittal review, structural/material analysis, complex coatings inspection, non-destructive testing procedures, on-site inspections, project staff training and other specialized consulting activities as requested.

With 24 active Alaskan projects and 32 projects completed there in 2017, the Mayes team’s experience in managing the many project challenges and unique requirements in the state helps verify construction materials and ensure safety. Be it a massive steel box-girder bridge, a runway lighting for a remote airstrip, a ferry terminal for an isolated village, or on-site bridge analysis and non-destructive testing, the quality assurance services provided to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities are an integral part of the infrastructure quality assurance program for projects in the wild Northwest.



Brad J. Gross, CWI, NDT Level II, is a senior project manager with Mayes Testing Engineers, A Terracon Company in Lynnwood, Wash. With more than 22 years of experience, Brad is the project manager and lead quality assurance representative for State of Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities projects. He has performed fabrication shop and project site quality assurance activities on many complex projects such as highway bridges, marine/ferry terminal structures and in-service bridges. 

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