DOT’s All-In Approach to Digital Delivery Builds Figurative and Physical Bridges

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In 2021, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) set out to reshape its disconnected workflows through a forward-thinking Digital Delivery Initiative, MDT adopted the Autodesk AEC Collection BIM and CAD software suite for highway and bridge design. The goal of the program is to ‘bridge the gap between strategy and execution.

That move would prove momentous as just a few months later those digital workflows would help the farming town of Denton, Montana recover from a devastating wildfire. The Wolf Creek Bridge—one of only two primary access roads to the town—was destroyed. Looking to help ease the community’s struggles, MDT looked to its newly implemented digital delivery workflow to rebuild the bridge. In just six months, MDT and its partners were able to go from concept through construction.

The digital delivery workflow includes design and collaboration tools such as AutoCAD, Civil 3D, InfraWorks, Navisworks, and Revit but also digital connections to survey and construction solutions.

The digital delivery workflow has helped reshape the MDT bridge groups means and methods in three essential ways.

Centralized 3D Parametric Model: Where engineering used to rely on spreadsheets and other calculations to compile a final plan set, the new workflow begins with a bridge model with proposed length and span upfront. In the case of the Wolf Creek Bridge, the design team worked with the various groups to piece together the necessary pieces such as hydraulics and in situ conditions and to communicate concepts to the construction team as well as the district, county commissioners and the public. 

Flexibility to Adapt: As supply chain disconnects continue, MDT has learned that 3D parametric modeling can help optimize material and component selection. For instance, when the Wolf Creek Bridge was conceptually designed, the bridge team looked to order bridge piles and beams—only to find that the selected bridge pile sizes and beam components were unavailable. With a parametric design workflow, the team was able to quickly pivot to determine the best available options and perform dynamic analysis very quickly.

Construction Connections: Eliminating disconnects between design and construction process is one of the goals of MDT’s digital delivery workflow—and the capability was powerful in Denton. The preconstruction design data was digitally translated to a construction model and into the survey equipment to support construction. While the surveyors were staking the critical components in the field, they were able to see the model directly in their survey equipment. Once the bridge was complete, MDT developed a digital twin to share with the maintenance group. Seven months later the Wolf Creek Bridge was open to traffic.

Today, MDT’s digital delivery workflow is put to work on the dozens of bridge repair and replacement projects around the state. TRIP023 report published by national research nonprofit TRIP, noted that 41% of the state’s bridges are 50 years old or more. Thanks to Montana’s passage of the Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act in 2017 and funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Montana will have additional resources to facilitate improvements. The digital workflow will ensure that monies are used with efficiency and speed.

If you have questions about how technology can help your firm adopt digital delivery, contact U.S. CAD.

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