• Visit the Tunneltalk RETC2015 Exhibition Preview

Successes prompt buoyant mood for RETC2015 12 May 2015

TunnelTalk reporting

With up to 1,500 delegates expected to attend the 2015 biannual Rapid Excavation and Tuneling Conference (RETC), this year’s event in New Orleans promises to be the largest gathering of underground construction professionals on North American soil.

The premier event of the year in North America boasts a comprehensive technical program that focuses on American projects but has attracted also a number of key speakers from across the globe to share knowledge and understanding gained on foreign soil.

This year’s event begins on Sunday June 7, where, in addition to the formal committee business of the RETC Executive Committee (10am), the RETC International Committee (11am) and the WTC (San Francisco) 2016 Organizing Committee (1-3pm), there are also on offer three day-long short specialist courses. Further details of these can be found at the bottom of this article.

Sheraton Hotel, New Orleans, in the French Quarter
Sheraton Hotel, New Orleans, in the French Quarter

Like many regional and national tunnelling organizations, the UCA of SMA is keen to promote the activities and opportunities available for young engineers, and to this end New Orleans will host the first annual UCA of SME Young Members Meeting at the RETC Conference. The meeting offers under-35s who are registered for the main conference the chance to network with people they are likely to come across during the length of their careers. Further details are available from the SME Young Members website (details below).

The last two years have seen an encouraging number of projects either move into construction, advance through to procurement, or move into design. The largest of these, is, of course, the SR99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, where the world’s largest TBM is currently undergoing repair after breaking down in December 2013.

But many more projects are moving forward. In Seattle, the Sound Transit Board has progressed to completion of all tunneling on the light rail University Link, and has made a start on the Northgate Link extension. The tunnel construction industry is also put on alert to opportunities presented by implementation of the next phase of underground rail construction – East Link – which includes 1,985ft of SEM/NATM tunnel construction under Downtown Bellevue.

Future construction procurement

Thimble Shoals Parallel Tunnel
Thimble Shoals Parallel Tunnel
St Louis Project Clear tunnel alignments
St Louis Project Clear tunnel alignments

In California opportunities are likely to unfold as the High Speed Rail program is developed; and possible future US$25 billion plans for two enormous underground conveyance tunnels to take fresh water from the Sacramento River to San Jose and San Diego will be massive undertakings that will require the expertise of the tunnel construction industry, though of course there is much work to do on the Environmental Planning side. Recently started excavations in Los Angeles in support of much-needed metro extensions are also adding to the pipeline of work. while in Hawaii, the TBM has just been launched for the three mile drive between Kaneohe Wastewater Pre-Treatment Facility and the Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Washington DC continues to excavate its huge Clean Rivers program as part of its Federally mandated scheme to prevent CSO overflows into its river system; as does Indianapolis with its now-complete Deep Rock Tunnel Connector – although the project and the tunnels are by no means complete. But while many cities in the USA have either completed or are in the process of completing CSO storage and wastewater conveyance tunnels, many more remain in the pipeline. Of these St Louis is possibly the closest to procurement having put the tunnel construction industry on alert in March (2015) for the staggered rollout of eight tunnels of a total 44km in length as part of its US$1.7 billion Project Clear. Many of these projects will be explored in greater detail as part of the program of technical papers to be delivered at the conference.

Other mega-projects that look set to reach construction procurement in the coming months include the recently announced mile-long billion dollar Parallel Thimble Shoals Tunnel in Chesapeake Bay Virginia. Like the nearby Second Midtown Tunnel crossing of the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth, which has just reached the construction half-way point, the Chesapeake Bay project is likely to feature an immersed concrete tunnel, although TBM excavation has not been ruled out.

For full details of all the above projects, and of some of those that have completed since the last meeting of the RETC in Washington DC in June 2013 – including the arduous Lake Mead No. 3 Intake Tunnel and the running tunnels for the 2.7km Central Subway Third Phase 2 in San Francisco – see the collection of TunnelTalk project reports in the References section below.

Against the background of so much activity in the North American underground construction market, it is scarcely surprising that RETC 2015 will be supported by the largest number of exhibitors ever, spanning the full range of equipment suppliers and technical specialists. The two hour break between the technical sessions on the Monday and the Tuesday is sure to result in the Exhibition space being exceptionally well attended between these times.

Napoleon Ballroom on the 3rd floor
Napoleon Ballroom on the 3rd floor
Grand Ballroom on the 5th floor
Grand Ballroom on the 5th floor

For a detailed plan of the Exhibition space – which is split across the 3rd and 5th floors of the Sheraton Hotel – click on the TunnelTalk Interactive Floorplan in the panel to the right, then follow the simple instructions to gain precise location details of the stands of the biggest names in the tunnel manufacturing, supply and services businesses. From here you can also access the various company websites which detail further the products and services they offer.

Likewise, for a full guide of the extensive technical program, check the pdf download at the bottom of this page. The schedule kicks off on the Sunday (June 7) at 1pm with three presentations on the themes of Tunnel Safety and Other Challenges for the Industry, culminating in a comparison of the histories of subacqeuous tunnelling in London and New York City since the start in 1828 of construction of the first Thames Tunnel, where the use of circular shields, hydraulic jacks, cast iron liners and compressed air – the foundations of modern tunneling – were first employed. This is followed at 2pm with a panel discussion led by Russell Clough and Palo Alto on the subject of Risk and Uncertainty.

The main Conference technical program runs all day on Monday and Tuesday (June 8-9, 8.30–11.30am before resuming again after lunch at 1.30–5pm), across 4-5 simultaneous tracks; and on Wednesday morning (June 10) starting at 8.30am. More than 50 papers will be delivered, around the following themes, and including focus on the following activities/projects:

  • Design and Planning
  • Difficult Ground
  • New and Innovative Technologies – Synetic fiber reinforcement, Spray-applied waterproofing,
  • Pressure Face TBM Case Histories – including a review of the successful struggle under enormous face pressures to complete the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 Tunnel, Northgate Link preparations, Rescue of inundated TBM on New York Harbor Siphon project
  • Caverns and Large Span Excavations – St Louis sewer tunnel vision, New York City Grand Central Station improvements, Holmestrand Underground Railway Station (Oslo), Second Avenue Subway caverns (LA)
  • Contracting Practices
  • Design-Build Projects – LA Regional Connector, North East Boundary Tunnel (Washington DC), Lima Metro (Peru) PPP procurement
  • TBM Technology
  • Future Projects – including an update on the Bay Delta Tunnels mega-project, Albany Park Storwater Diversion Tunnel (Chicago), New York City water bypass tunnel, Red Line Rail Expansion (Maryland)
  • Ground Support and Final Lining
  • Hard Rock Tunneling – Deep Rock Tunnel Connector (Indianapolis), Kishanganga headrace tunnel (India), Black River Tunnel (Ohio)
  • Major Projects – Waterview (NZ), Auckland City Rail Link, Blue Plains Tunnel (Washington DC), Crossrail Western Tunnels (UK)
  • Geotechnical Considerations
  • Grouting and Ground Modification – Compensation grouting, jet grouting, gound freezing
  • SEM/NATM – Ottawa LRT, Crossrail (London), future East Link (Seattle)
  • Shaft Construction and Design
  • Risk Management
  • Trenchless Tunneling and Rehabilitation

In addition to all of the above, and the opportunities presented during the regular program for networking, other activities include the Welcome Lunch on the Monday (June 8) between 11am-1.15pm ($60); the UCA of SME Breakfast on Tuesday (June 9) between 7am-8.30am ($45); and culminating in the RETC Dinner on Wednesday (June 10) from 6pm ($95) where the speaker will be Lt. General Russel L. Honoré.

Honoré arrived in a Hurricane Katrina-battered New Orleans in 2005 and saved a city by taking swift charge of military relief efforts. Drawing on his 37 years of military experience, Lt. General Honoré now brings his bold, no-nonsense leadership approach to businesses and organizations to help better prepare them for the challenges of the future. He addresses how the public and private sector can solve a broad array of issues – from jobs and energy, to healthcare and technology – by emphasizing innovation, risk assessment, and social entrepreneurship.

Short courses at RETC

All course take place between 8am-4pm on Sunday June 7. Cost is $300 for members and £400 for non-members, and includes course materials, coffee and lunch.

Shaft construction and design

Instructor: Jamal Rostami, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. He will be joined by a team of experts in the industry.

This course is intended to review information that engineers, managers and professionals overseeing underground shaft and tunnel construction should know regarding the safe and efficient use of conventional drilling and blasting methods. Topics include a review of modern explosive and initiation systems, blasting physics and rock breakage, principles of tunnel and shaft round blast design, control of blast-induced ground vibration and air-overpressure, estimating drill-blast costs, and important risk management practices. Practical elements of controlled blast design and risk management will be reviewed in an interactive blast design workshop and demonstrated in case histories involving many North American tunnel projects.

Grouting in underground construction

Instructor: Raymond Henn, Brierley Associates, Denver, CO; and Paul Schmall, Moretrench, Rockaway, NJ.

This one-day short course will present an overview of the materials, equipment and various grouting methods used in association with underground construction and tunneling in soils and rock. Subjects covered will include cements and admixtures, grouting equipment and practices, chemical and cementitious permeation grouting, jet grouting, compaction grouting, pre-excavation grouting, backfill and contact grouting, and cellular grouts. Nine industry experts will give the lectures on these various grouting subjects and techniques. The attendees will also receive a course notebook containing all presentation material by the speakers. This course is recommended for contractors, engineers, owners and consultants involved in any aspect of underground design and construction.

Underground blasting technology & risk management

Instructor: Gordon F. Revey of REVEY Associates, Inc. is a professional mining engineer who has specialized in controlled drill-blast tunneling work for over thirty years.

This course is intended to review information that engineers, managers and professionals overseeing underground shaft and tunnel construction should know regarding the safe and efficient use of conventional drilling and blasting methods. Topics include a review of modern explosive and initiation systems, blasting physics and rock breakage, principles of tunnel and shaft round blast design, control of blast-induced ground vibration and air-overpressure, estimating drill-blast costs, and important risk management practices. Practical elements of controlled blast design and risk management will be reviewed in an interactive blast design workshop and demonstrated in case histories involving many North American tunnel projects.

           

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