Success Story | WSB TH 169 Redefine Elk River Project

TH 169 Redefine Elk River Project

Elk River, Minnesota, United States


Expanding and Improving a Major North-South Route

Engineering firm WSB was contracted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to convert a three-mile section of Highway 169 (TH 169) that runs through Elk River, Minnesota into a freeway. The heavily trafficked north-south corridor required safety upgrades to reduce traffic accidents and improve pedestrian and vehicle accessibility. The TH 169 Redefine Elk River Project will enhance the highway’s overall infrastructure by transforming four traffic intersections into interchanges, adjusting interchange entrances, replacing a bridge, and upgrading all underground utilities. However, WSB needed an efficient way to manage the complex project.

Meeting all Collaborative, Financial Requirements

Specially funded through Minnesota’s Corridors of Commerce program, MnDOT had to ensure that the construction budget did not exceed USD 130 million. To eliminate inaccuracies that could cause construction delays and increase costs, WSB was required to deliver the design under the construction manager/general contractor (CMGC) method. With this project delivery method, a contractor is hired as a consultant during design to pinpoint potential construction conflicts and price out alternative design scenarios. The arrangement required WSB to establish a collaborative design platform. Furthermore, WSB wanted to use the TH 169 Redefine Elk River Project to enhance their 3D modeling processes and deliver a fully paperless design for the first time.


Cultivating Participation with Digital Technology

After considering their options, WSB determined that they could advance their modeling processes and meet the budgetary and project delivery requirements by using Bentley applications to employ digital twin technology and establish coordinated workflows in a connected data environment. They implemented Bentley’s iTwin technology to provide detailed contextual information on the infrastructure design for visualization and analysis of the 3D models. By using ProjectWise’s open, integrated cloud platform, they facilitated collaboration among the numerous team members, contractors, and MnDOT throughout design. Creating a 4D model with SYNCHRO enabled WSB and the contractor to simulate roadway building over time. By analyzing the 4D model, they determined overlaps, gaps, and discrepancies in the construction schedule and management plan.

Digital Models Saves Money and Time

Establishing a digital workflow in a connected data environment from design through construction provided real-time updates and helped create a safer, more efficient roadway expansion within budget and on deadline. Using Bentley applications, WSB saved over USD 12 million to date and anticipate their savings to grow to USD 15 million to 18 million in early 2022. WSB relocated 58.7 miles of utilities ahead of schedule with clash detection capabilities to save almost USD 500,000. Appraising earthwork costs based on 3D modeling and real-time quantity outputs through open modeling software enabled the contractor to accurately evaluate the prices of possible design options, saving more than USD 4.8 million in earthwork balancing, bridge beams, and retaining walls. Construction is set to begin in spring 2022.




  • The TH 169 Redefine Elk River project will increase roadway capacity to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety and freight transportation on three miles of Highway 169.

  • WSB delivered a paperless design to MnDOT in collaboration with a construction manager/general contractor (CMGC) method and kept construction costs under USD 130 million.

  • Creating a 4D model in SYNCHRO pinpointed costly construction issues during the design phase, saving USD 500,000.


quote“The innovation and technical creativity of the design team, led by WSB, has raised the bar for the future of 3D modeling, visualization, and cross-discipline project coordination in Minnesota. The approach, along with our willingness to coordinate and collaborate with the CM/GC, has saved the project significant time and money by providing better meeting presentations, reducing design iterations, and lowering the need for contingency in the 30% and 60% construction cost estimates.”

John Chiglo