Old Woodward Avenue Reconstruction: A Collaborative Effort

Aerial photo of Old Woodward Avenue at completion
with narrowed road and widen streetscaped sidewalk

NFE was the prime consultant for the City of Birmingham on the Old Woodward Avenue Reconstruction project, providing land surveying, civil engineering, and landscape design services. In addition, NFE provided consulting support in collaboration with the City of Birmingham’s Engineering and Planning departments and other consultants hired by the City early in the project planning phases. Furthermore, NFE was responsible for developing its team of subconsultants to bring the decisions made during the planning phase into a final design with a detailed set of construction plans for bidding, permitting and construction.

The project consisted of the complete reconstruction of Old Woodward Avenue (100’ ROW) between Willits Street (north) and Brown Road (south), and also Maple Road (66’ ROW), 250-feet west and east of the intersection at Old Woodward Avenue, for a total project length of 2,000 feet.

Nearly seven miles of underground utilities were updated along the route, consisting of gas main, combined sewer main, storm drains, building sewer services, subgrade underdrain, water mains, building water services, traffic signal cables, 11 mast arm standards, fiber conduit, electrical system cable and irrigation lines. Also, over 11,000 square yards of concrete pavement, 7,400 square yards of concrete sidewalks, 63 exposed aggregate raised curb planters and trees, 5,000 plantings, pavement markings, signage and other amenities were installed on the project.

To improve pedestrian safety, traffic-calming landscaped median islands were added where possible (left) and granite bollards were added at Maple Road intersection (right)


The City of Birmingham engaged the services of MKSK Studios as lead planning consultant along with the City’s traffic consultant, Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering, to develop the conceptual design of the route and streetscape for the Old Woodward Avenue and Maple Road downtown corridors. Also, the City engaged the services of Hubbell, Roth & Clark to undergo a study for the sewer improvements.

Further collaboration ensued with the City and its consultants that led NFE to engage the services of the following subconsultants to complete the project design team:

  • G2 Consulting Group for geotechnical investigation and services
  • Tetra Tech for traffic signal modernization design
  • Berbiglia Associates, Inc. for electrical features design and consultation
  • Turnkey Network Solutions for fiber conduit system design and consultation
  • Liquid Assets for irrigation design

The entire project was constructed within a 4-month timeframe by Angelo Iafrate Construction Company (AICC) and its subcontractors. They started in late March and went straight through project completion in early August.


To improve root zone health, a mixture of 4 to 1 course
sand compost was planted beneath the sidewalk
adjacent to each tree planter

Several innovative factors were implemented during this historic rebuild of Old Woodward Avenue, one of which started early in the due diligence phase of the project. Due to the age of the underground infrastructure and adjacent buildings, the City engaged the services of Pipetek Infrastructure Services to provide both mainline and lateral sewer inspection services, from inside and outside the buildings, for complete documentation of sewer laterals that were confirmed active or not. This data was reviewed and incorporated into the design with contract pay items to investigate further in the field, as necessary, which minimized risk of basement back-ups and saved time in the field.

Trees are important to the City, as such, the design team proposed an innovative solution to help improve the root conditions for the new urban trees to be planted as part of the project. A sand-based structural soil beneath the sidewalk immediately adjacent to each new sidewalk planter with a tree was implemented. A soil mixture of 4-parts course sand to 1-part compost was placed up to a depth of three feet and compacted in layers to achieve proper density prior to sidewalk placement. Each tree required approximately 1,000 cubic feet of the sand-based structural soil to complement the planting soil within the planter.

Performance and adherence to an aggressive 4-month construction schedule with precision and accuracy was of the utmost importance to the City. In development of the contract, the City implemented an innovative fair calculation methodology for selection of the successful bidder, based not only on price, but also on time of required road closure and experience of the contractor. In addition, the City implemented both penalty and bonus clauses into the contract. As such, AICC successfully completed the work 18 days in advance of the approved completion date, earning $102,000 in bonus incentive.


During all phases of construction, an inviting, safe atmosphere was maintained for the public

This project was extremely important not only to the City but also to the downtown area, residents, and business owners. Businesses were very concerned with the lack of parking and access during construction. Valet stations were positioned throughout the central business district to provide relief of stress in finding parking spaces. A wood pedestrian fence was constructed along the route and decorated, along with promotions to support businesses and sustain an inviting atmosphere for the public during construction.


The City of Birmingham updated the aging infrastructure in its downtown
area, while improving pedestrian walkability and safety, and beatifying it
with an enhanced streetscape design

This project serves as a strong example of the importance of collaboration, communication, teamwork, due diligence, and attention to detail to complete a complex project on time and within budget. The patience of the City’s residents and business owners were rewarded with a beautifully impressive project, that has improved the City’s path of sustainable urban walkability for years to come.

For more information on this project or for your next industrial project, contact Brett Buchholz at 248-332-7931 or bbuchholz@nfe-engr.com.