Six ECs' Coordinated Effort Ensures the Success of a National Monument Renovation

The five-year-long renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds tapped the full capabilities of six electrical contractors that worked on it. Photo credit: Gateway Arch Park Foundation

After five years of coordinated effort, St. Louis' newly renovated 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch and the renamed 90-acre Gateway Arch National Park (formerly the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) reopened this past summer. The $380 million renovation was completed in time for the July 4, 2018 festivities.

The electrical portion of the renovation, which covered a wide variety of projects, was handled by six electrical contractors and over 100 IBEW Local No. 1 electricians and communication technicians.

The prime electrical contractor for the renovation was Guarantee Electrical Co. (GECO), St. Louis, which provided the new on-site Museum of Western Expansion with a 4,000-ampere electrical service, a fully digital communication system throughout the facility to support video surveillance, security sensors and alarms, access control, and a fire alarm system, along with state-of-the-technology high-speed internet service. GECO also enhanced the museum's entry space with 11/2-inch-wide LED strips embedded in a unique tube ceiling, designed to highlight a large floor map of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, from which the Lewis and Clark expedition launched its westward exploration in 1803.

Arch Museum Tube Ceiling
Guarantee Electrical Co. enhanced the daylight-infused museum space with 1.5-inch-wide LED strips embedded in the unique tube ceiling designed to highlight a giant floor-map of the confluent Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, including the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition from St. Louis in 1803. Photo credit: Guarantee Electrical Co.

Aschinger Electric Co., Fenton, Mo., worked to completely overhaul the arch's tram infrastructure, including advanced automation and a new digital system that improves the overall reliability of the tram. Sensors continuously monitor tram motor temperatures, oil pump pressure, and other system functions, and the data is integrated by programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which provide maintenance personnel with real-time information on the performance of the system. Up to 6,000 people per day use the tram system. Aschinger also completed the north and south Arch Grounds power and lighting projects.

Working with a company called Conference Technologies, Kaemmerlen Electric Co., St. Louis, focused on upgrading the tram loading areas, including the lighting, the fire alarm system and power for the various projects, displays and racks of audio/video equipment. Kaemmerlen also did some low-voltage work, adding fiber optics to support the audio/video equipment, displays and projectors that are in place to improve the experience for visitors while they wait for the trams. Kaemmerlen added ticker-style informational displays for visitors along their walk from the Museum of Western Expansion to the tram.

Briner Electric Co., Maryland Heights, Mo., worked on site lighting and additional electrical infrastructure on the nearby Luther Ely Smith Square, a green space that leads to the arch entrance.

Arch Museum at Night
The subterranean Museum of Westward Expansion brightens the newly renamed Gateway Arch National Park. Photo credit: Gateway Arch Park Foundation

Liberty Electric (O'Fallon, Mo.) and X-Cell Electric LLC (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.) also contributed to the project's success, employing electricians under the IBEW Local No. 1 NECA Agreement. Liberty installed temperature controls and low-voltage electrical needs in the museum, while X-Cell contributed to the arch's tram infrastructure.

This five-year-long construction project tapped the full capabilities of the six St. Louis-based contractors, according to Douglas R. Martin, executive vice president of the St. Louis Chapter of NECA.

"The multi-phased projects required highly trained electrical craftspeople, as the work covered the full range of electrical construction, from underground distribution to the capsule controls at the top of the arch," he said.

While the actual construction and renovation work took five years, the project itself involved two decades of planning and 70 months of redesigning and rebuilding the arch grounds, engaging an array of local, national, and even global firms and government agencies, according to Martin.

To ensure success in working on a project of this size and complexity, ECs coordinated each of their unique assignments through intense planning and attention to detail.

"As an industry, we train and promote the use of robotic station layout, 3-D modeling, and collaborative document storage/retrieval software," Martin said. "This allowed our contractors to coordinate collectively with each other and the entire construction and design team."

The pinpoint precision of robotic station layout was necessary to ensure the work was put in the proper place, according to the pre-clashed MEP models.

"Changes in work and important information were exchanged seamlessly in real-time through the document storage software," he said.

Much of the work by St. Louis NECA contractors aimed at more fully engaging visitors with the park, including new technology and lighting to create dynamic exhibit space in the Museum of Westward Expansion. (photo credit: Gateway Arch Park Foundation)
Much of the work by the St. Louis contractors aimed at more fully engaging visitors with the park, including new technology and lighting to create dynamic exhibit space in the Museum of Westward Expansion. Photo credit: Gateway Arch Park Foundation

The ECs encountered several challenges.

"The Gateway Arch itself remained open during the construction project, so work had to safely accommodate millions of visitors," Martin said.

In addition, street closures, security protocols and the dense urban setting severely limited construction access to the site.

"The riverfront also flooded twice," he said.

Three of the most impressive features of work on the project were the constant commitment by the contractors and workers to quality, efficiency and safety.

"The work had to be of the highest possible quality, while remaining respectful of the budget funded by private donors," Martin said. "Furthermore, as a national monument, security and public safety are of the utmost priority. The high-tech security surveillance systems, fire alarm systems and structured cabling had to be sustained throughout all phases of construction and the transition to modern systems."

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