Suffolk Downs Racing Deadlines

By Paul Fournier | September 28, 2010

Contractors won their race to finish installing critically important twin 8-foot-diameter pipe culvert in time for the start of the 2007 season at Suffolk Downs, New England's only remaining thoroughbred racetrack.

Revoli Construction Co., Inc., of North Reading, Mass., and its subcontractors completed the work on a tight schedule to allow the facility to open its busy season, one that included the 65th running of the Massachusetts Handicap (MassCap) with its $500,000 purse — later won by Brass Hat on September 22. (The legendary Seabiscuit, who raced at Suffolk Downs eight times over the years, won the 1937 MassCap.)

Located just minutes from Logan International Airport on 166 acres not far from the Atlantic shoreline, Suffolk Downs needed a permanent fix for a serious drainage problem. What's more, the fix had to be done by May 5, opening day of the 2007 live racing season and the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation's Planning and Engineering Division funded and oversaw the contract for the $7-million project, Sales Creek Culvert Replacement, Drainage Restoration and Dredging, which was designed by the engineering consultant, Hatch Mott MacDonald.

The work included the installation of approximately 2,000 feet of 96-inch diameter centrifugally cast, fiberglass reinforced, polymer mortar (CCFRPM) pipe supplied by HOBAS Pipe USA of Houston, Texas. The pipe was placed as twin culverts at three different locations around the Suffolk Downs facility in Revere and East Boston. Two of the culverts traveled under the racetrack surface with the third running under the main entrance road. The project was done in two phases.

Phase One included restoring the hydraulic capacity of the drainage system at two upper-most locations and the removal of some blockages. Phase two included replacing downstream twin 60-inch diameter HDPE pipes with 96-inch CCFRPM pipes, as well as channel and lagoon dredging.

Steve Pini, a 36-year employee of Suffolk Downs and superintendent for the racetrack, said that the 60-inch HDPE pipes were a temporary emergency repair made a few years ago after the collapse of a corroded, 108-inch corrugated pipe.

CCFRPM was the only material specified for the replacement piping because of its resistance to corrosion, hydraulic capacity and abrasion resistance. A five-year history and a list of 500,000 feet of installed pipe were required with the submittal package. And since timing was critical, the project specifications included a guaranteed pipe delivery time frame.

Shawqi Alsarabi, president of Revoli Construction Company, pointed out that work had to be performed in the off-season for the track between December 1and March 1. Phase One was to be completed by March 1, 2006, and Phase Two was to be finished by March 1, 2007. As part of the tightly scheduled project, crews had to remove and replace a building and two sections of race track.

HOBAS worked with the contractor and designer to provide installation recommendations for the twin barrel installation. Flowable fill was specified for the embedment material to minimize settlement in the poor quality native soil. Cover material was placed after the flowable fill reached desirable strength. In addition, a narrow trench was called for to limit the amount of soil excavated and to save on the amount of flowable fill. The 21-foot trench width allowed only a 2-foot clear space between pipes and 1-1/2-foot clearance from the trench walls.

Much of the work on the project was performed in a storm water drainage channel subject to fluctuations in water levels. In line with this, the contractor's bypass system was sometimes ineffective because of storms and during high tides due to the area's tide gate operations.

Further compounding job difficulty, this was the first time Revoli had installed HOBAS pipe and the first time the company had installed a pipe of this size. Despite the challenges, Suffolk Downs superintendent Pini said the pipe went together well.

After Revoli reached grade, crews performed surface work and track restoration, completing the work before opening day.

(Ed.: This article is based on information supplied by HOBAS Pipe USA.)