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Green U-beams spell safe travels for Phoenix Sky Train

U.S. Concrete Precast Group has completed the production of 130 prestressed, green concrete U-beams for the Sky Train project, a massive, $1 billion-plus public works effort now under construction at the east end of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. U.S. Concrete secured the project in 2009 with lead contractor Hensel Phelps Construction Co. Production of high-strength U-beams began at the company’s Phoenix manufacturing facility in February 2010, utilizing environmentally friendly concrete mix design, EF Technology, which used 12.5 percent fly ash replacement and can have a carbon footprint 30 percent lower than standard concrete mix designs.

This proprietary technology not only provides enhanced performance of the concrete products and a reduced environmental footprint, but also can provide credits toward LEED certification. Marking the first prestress job for U.S. Concrete's Phoenix plant, the company's Perris operation—formerly the old-Pomeroy plant in southern California—has shipped such product prior and staff from that plant was heavily involved with presentation, engineering, training and start-up production at Phoenix. The prestressed U-beams used in the project ranged in length from 58 to 100 ft. Each beam requires up to 47 prestressing strands and can weigh as much as 72 tons. Over 3,723 yds. of green concrete was utilized  in Phase One. The U-beams are an integral part of the Sky Train project and are designed as the platform for the future elevated people mover at airport.

Construction began on the two-phase, intra-airport transit system in December 2008. According to the project administrator, the Sky Train will be LEED certified, and the airport is on target to achieve Silver status. In the strictest sense of the word, the Sky Train is not a train at all. Rather that traveling on rails, it will use automated vehicles with rubber tires that travel on a fixed guideway. The Sky Train will be elevated over most of its route, a necessity within the busy airport environment.

The construction currently under way will culminate in the opening of Phase One in early 2013. This initial phase will connect three key destinations: The Airport (44th Street & Washington) METRO light rail station, the East Economy parking garages, and Terminal 4, which serves 80 percent of the airport’s passengers. Sky Train will feature a 100-ft.-tall bridge over the taxiway that connects the north and south runways—the first location in the world where a train will pass over an airplane. The system is expected to move about 5 million people in its first year open. The Sky Train is projected to reduce the number of vehicles per day at the airport by nearly 20 percent, or 20,000 vehicles, significantly reducing congestion and pollution. Scheduled for completion in 2020, Stage Two of the project will connect to the airport's remaining terminals and the rental car center.

For some time, the Sky Bridge was best known around Phoenix when the project came up short in its bid to grab a piece of the $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Transportation, earmarked for ground-transportation projects. The city's request for $122 million to speed up construction of the Sky Train was rejected, striking a blow to Mayor Phil Gordon and others who had spent months lobbying the Obama administration for funding. As a result, the project is funded with airport revenues only, with the majority of the monies (60 percent) coming from passenger facility charges and additional airport revenue making up the difference.