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Engineer and Contractor Build 3D Digital Bridge with Trimble Model Collaboration Platform


Customer Profile: National design and consulting firm WSB specializes in engineering, community planning, environmental, and construction services. With headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the company has 15 offices in Minnesota, North Dakota, Arkansas, Colorado, and Texas.

Business Challenge: Bridge the design to construction digital gap on Highway 169 Redefine – Elk River project.


●      Trimble Quadri

●      Trimble Business Center


●      3D constructible models for takeoffs

●      Faster, effective design solutions

●      Turn-key AMG files

●      Field visualization for SiteVision

Highway 169 in Elk River connects Minnesota’s central lakes region with the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area. The highway and adjacent streets in this area have exceeded capacity, creating a bottleneck for travelers.

In response, the Minnesota Department of Transportation  (MnDOT) initiated the $158M Highway 169 Redefine – Elk River project to improve this three-mile stretch. The multi-year effort includes the reconstruction of all four lanes of Highway 169 and adjacent road connections, four new interchanges with greatly improved and safer pedestrian accommodations.

It’s a transformative project for the community, commuters, commerce, and even the construction industry, as the owner and project team seek to bridge the design to construction digital gap. Moreover, the constructible model in Quadri will be used for asset management, harnessing the predictive analysis within preservation. This also unifies the owner-operator as design, construction, and asset management teams who have not historically interacted and their activities tend to be sequential.

Partnering for Progress

Engineering and consulting firm WSB designed the highway overhaul using Bentley’s OpenRoads, a parametric model-based design solution for developing horizontal and vertical alignments, profiles, and cross-sections, as well as underground stormwater, watermain, and sanitary sewer networks. And, for the first time, WSB delivered the 3D digital, paperless plans to the Minnesota Department of Transportation using Trimble’s BIM collaboration platform, Quadri. But that’s just the beginning of Highway 169 Redefine’s digital journey.

WSB is also working closely with Ames Construction, the general contractor for the project and a Trimble superuser, to deliver that same digital data for construction. Too often within construction, there are assumptions that the model can be used for machine control when it can not, requiring significant rework. The use of Quadri ensures that the data does not stop at the river’s edge.

Kyle Klasen, Director of Survey at WSB, said, “Historically, the workflow from the design platform into the contractor’s platform has required a lot of duplicated effort from the contractor, who essentially has to build their own models from paper plan sets and 2D design files. As everyone is moving to digital delivery, the ability to seamlessly transfer usable 3D data has become a reality.”

WSB and Ames teamed with Trimble and Bentley to assure the smooth transfer of data, largely with the use of Quadri, an integrated data model collaboration platform that drives BIM-based workflows. It’s designed to help users maximize the value of the 3D models through construction.

WSB is the first engineering design firm in the U.S. to implement Trimble’s Quadri collaboration platform  “With this connection,” said Klasen, “Ames will have the ability to perform quantity takeoffs in this early phase, and, ultimately, export 3D models to their machine control systems in the field.”

Visible Value

The benefit of this collaboration platform has become readily evident in the early design phase. In one case, the engineering team sought to raise one of the bridges by six feet. WSB and Ames were able to use that same design file to balance earthwork quantities at the different stages, reduce the number of retaining walls and even minimize noise.

Further, Peter Muehlbach, Senior Director of Transportation Program Management at WSB and project manager for the Highway 169 effort, said, “Through this cohesive and collaborative workflow, we were able to make iterative design changes such as moving a noise wall closer on a berm to reduce the wall size by half. Our team can design the iterative changes, quantify them in real-time and work with MnDOT design, construction, and maintenance to move it forward. It’s a great way to keep innovating and delivering the best possible solution.”

Currently, WSB has been able to successfully transfer data through the OpenRoads connector to Quadri, including element types. “Design data has been seamlessly transferred from ORD to Quadri thus far,” Klasen added.

Collaborative Value

The larger benefit of this digital bridge between design and construction models, according to WSB Chief Operating Officer Jon Chiglo, is the opportunity to further enhance today’s more collaborative procurement methods.

“I think everybody recognizes that technology can really help make this project more successful,” he noted, “The technology fosters a much more collaborative environment. Each of us [Ames and WSB] have already benefited in multiple ways. That's why we brought Trimble and Bentley into the process—we knew there were some challenges there and looked to them to facilitate a resolution. I think it's worked out well.”

The construction of this two-year conversion project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2022. The project’s improvements and upgrades will benefit the community by increasing capacity, improving safety, reducing bottlenecks, and improving motorist and pedestrian accessibility and safety. The ability to move freight through the area will also improve while reducing barriers to local commerce.