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Ensuring Business as Usual During I-75 Reconstruction

By: Irwin Rapoport - CEG CORRESPONDENT

An overhead view of project Interstate 75 in Dayton, Ohio.
At peak there were seven excavators (three Cat 336 EL, two Komatsu PC228 USLC, one Cat 345BL and one Cat M-318), four Volvo L-120 wheel loaders and five bulldozers (two Komatsu D37, one Cat D-4, one Deere 550 and one Cat D-6).

While the reconstruction of 1.21 mi. (1.9 km) of Interstate 75 (I-75) in Dayton, Ohio may seem small, this nearly $60 million project financed by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has an ambitious agenda that would test any general contractor.

The work (three major stages and 18 substages) began in March 2010 and should be complete in June/July. The project has The Ruhlin Company and subcontractors adding an additional lane in each direction; the replacement of structures (bridges, etc.) over Stewart, Germantown, Albany, and Washington streets; work over CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks and Edwin C. Moses Boulevard; partial replacement of bridges over Cincinnati Street and U.S.-35; and the removal of the partial diamond interchange with Albany Street and the bridge over abandoned Conrail Railroad tracks. There also is some road re-alignment work for new ramps on the I-75 and I-35.

“This project contains many challenges including a requirement to maintain service to 125,000 vehicles per-day,” said Superintendent Jim Ruhlin Jr., “necessitating a complex maintenance of traffic plan and the work in the Great Miami River consisted of excavation of 100,000 cubic yards [CY] of channel material for use as embankment behind MSE retaining walls. The portion of the project over Norfolk Southern and CSX Railroads involved demolition and reconstruction of mainline I-75 bridges and ramps over heavily used tracks. A complex CPM schedule with over 1,200 activities was utilized to help manage the work.”

The rerouting of traffic required three major diversions (via seven day notifications) and working with the city, ODOT and the University of Dayton to plan the lane closures.


This and the pre-planning and coordination with various stakeholders needed to be thorough. This included getting various utilities on-board.

“Most of them did a pretty good job and they were out of our way by the time we got there,” said Ruhlin Jr. “One fiber-optic company that had wires along the railroad tracks was late and we had to delay that portion of the project, but once they did, we were able to accelerate the work and get back on schedule. Right now we are in substantial completion. We just have to complete the final re-alignment of the highway and put down the final course of asphalt. We’re actually a little ahead of schedule”

Coordination with the railway companies was critical, especially for the setting of bridge beams and decking above the mainline tracks.

‘They had flaggers out every day to let us know when the trains were coming so we could stop our operations,” said Ruhlin Jr. “Plans to remove or set something in place, along with weights, had to be submitted 55 days in advance for reviews and comments and they could request changes. We basically had to submit our plans much earlier.”

Bridges were either completely demolished and replaced or partially kept open to maintain traffic flow.

The amount of materials used reflects the scope of this project — 220,000 cu. yds. (168,202 cu m) of embankment material and 94,000 cu, yds. (71,868 cu m) were excavated. Approximately 40,000 cu. yds. (30,582 cu m) of concrete will be brought in and 16 mi. (26 km) of steel H-piling were driven for bridge foundations.

“We had a total of 35,000 linear feet of portable barrier utilized on the project during multiple phases to keep the traveling public and workers safe,” said Ruhlin Jr. “Approximately 2.5 million pounds of structural steel was used and several million pounds of concrete I-beams.”

The majority of the materials from the demolished roads and bridges have been recycled, with much of it used for fill.

“There were vast areas of the project that needed fill, so we rubbleized it with our NPK E216 and Caterpillar H-140 and H-160 hoe rams,” said Ruhlin Jr. “All the steel beams from the bridges were recycled and from the decks, we broke up the concrete slabs to recover the rebar.”

At full capacity, more than 100 Ruhlin employees and those of subcontractors were on site.

“Their numbers would grow and shrink with the traffic stages,” said Ruhlin Jr., who added that at peak there were seven excavators (three Cat 336 EL, two Komatsu PC228 USLC, one Cat 345BL and one Cat M-318), four Volvo L-120 wheel loaders and five bulldozers (two Komatsu D37, one Cat D-4, 1 Deere 550, one Cat D-6.)

“We also had two Volvo A-35 D off-road trucks, and three Link Belt LS-138 H II, 80-ton crawler cranes,” he added.

One major purchase was an HMC Sonic side grip vibratory pile driving attachment for a Cat 330 excavator.

“This piece of equipment was purchased in hope that it would help to speed up the process of driving sheet piling,” said Ruhlin Jr. “Instead of having the large cost and time needed to move in a crane and regular diesel powered pile driving equipment, the Sonic side grip is mounted to a excavator that is easily moved around site quickly and efficiently. Another benefit to this attachment is the ability to drive piling under a structure, such as a bridge.

“Conventional pile driving equipment needs a substantial amount of headroom to operate” he added. “With the Sonic side grip the only restriction to the height of the pile driving operation is the length of the piling itself. We utilized both benefits of the Sonic side grip on our project. Helping to get piling into areas that were not possible with conventional pile driving and also to speed up the process in a whole.”

Ruhlin rented two Komatsu PC 350 excavators from Columbus Equipment and purchased a new 336 EL Caterpillar excavator from Ohio CAT, a Komatsu PC 228 USLC excavator from Columbus Equipment and a new Volvo L 120 G loader from Rudd Equipment.

Specialty equipment is normally rented for specific projects, while new equipment purchases are based on upgrading the fleet and replacing worn out machines and vehicles, according to Ruhlin.

“We’ve been very busy as a company — last year and the year prior,” said Ruhlin Jr., “so we saw the need for the equipment knowing that it had a place in completing this contract.”

The main subcontractors for the project are J & B Steel (steelwork), A & A safety (temporary signs and striping), Security Fence (overhead signs and guardrails), and Barrett Paving (paving and asphalt).

Dayton and nearby St. Claire College provided sites to store building materials, park vehicles and set up work-site offices.

Weather was not a major factor, according to Ruhlin Jr.

“We had to work through the winters and build fills and pour concrete,” he said. “We had ground thaw heaters (hoses that contain hot fluids) that you could layout on the concrete or ground — we had some cold and snow, but nothing horrific. The summers were dry — we didn’t have a lot of rain. We were fortunate.”

Roger Weist was the general superintendant on the job, overlooking all activities. Equipment Manager Matt Bush and Field Technician Joe Stone, with Ruhlin Jr., managed the day-to-day use of equipment on the job.

“Activity planning is making this a success,” said Ruhlin Jr. “We planned the activities to have a constant use of equipment. Around 85 percent of the repairs were done on site and major things were taken care of at our main shop in Sharon Center or others.”

A warehouse was set up to store spare parts, various oils and fluids, and tools needed for repair and regular maintenance work.

“We didn’t have a place to pull the equipment inside, but if it was raining or cover was needed, we could park vehicles under a bridge,” said Ruhlin Jr. “For the vehicles and equipment, we had 250 and 1,000 hour services — it’s all done by meter reading. We’re in the process of equipping all of our major equipment with telematics to have automatic access to hour meter readings and other critical machine data. In the meantime, meter readings are being taken by hand and they are sent to our equipment manager. Our shop then generates a list of services due and our lube technician schedules time to come on the job and perform the PM services.”