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$95M Project to Connect Cleveland’s West Side, Lakefront

The contractor, via individual bids, is doing all three phases of the work.

Tue November 10, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Irwin Rapoport

The Lakefront West project in Cleveland, a $95 million Ohio Department of Transportation and city of Cleveland initiative/partnership, will be completed in the summer of 2018 by the Great Lakes Construction Co. The contractor, via individual bids, is doing all three phases of the work.

Another contractor had been awarded the first of the project — the pedestrian tunnels — and began work initially in 2010, but ODOT decided to rebid the project after unanticipated soil conditions required a redesign of a retaining wall along the Lakefront. Great Lakes, the low bidder, was awarded the contract in the summer of 2012, and began work shortly afterwards (late summer/fall).

The project is connecting Cleveland’s west side neighborhoods with the lakefront by creating multi-modal connections along the West Shoreway between West Boulevard and the Main Avenue Bridge.

It will increase access to Lake Erie, improve green space, biking and pedestrian facilities, increase development potential and simplify connections along the now limited-access freeway, according to the Web site for the project. This two-mile freeway will be transformed into a scenic, tree-lined boulevard. The project will preserve three lanes of traffic in each direction — the same number motorists see today. Reduction of the speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph is expected to add just over a minute of total travel time along the boulevard. In 2008 ODOT and the city of Cleveland eliminated proposed plans to include signalized intersections along the corridor, further reducing travel times yet maintaining a scenic, boulevard feel.

The project includes improvements for a variety of transportation choices, including public transportation, cyclists, runners and pedestrians.

The West 73rd Street Extension creates a new link from the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood directly to Edgewater Park, according to the Web page. The new piece of roadway will dip beneath the railroad tracks and connect to the existing entrance to Edgewater Park. As part of the West Shoreway reconstruction, crews also will construct a new off road multipurpose trail along the Shoreway from West Boulevard to West 28th Street. The landscaped and lighted path will be about 10 ft. (3 m) wide and will accommodate cyclists of all levels as well as pedestrians.

Amanda McFarland, ODOT’s public information officer of District 12 (Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga Counties), points out that a key reason for the project is that in 2002, the city of Cleveland initiated a comprehensive update of the city’s Master Plan to create a more accessible lakefront.

“The study identified the West Shoreway, renamed to Lakefront West, as the first transportation project to be tackled,” she said. “Furthermore, the Governing Board of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) approved the Lakefront West Project for placement on Tier 1 of the Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) and the state of Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) also weighed in and approved funding for the project.”

The study corridor of the project runs along the existing alignment of Ohio state Route 2 from Clifton Boulevard on the west to the Main Avenue Bridge on the east, and it is bounded on the south by the Norfolk Southern Railroad and on the north by various properties, including Edgewater Park, Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority’s bulk material terminals, Cleveland’s Garrett Morgan Water Treatment Plant and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s westerly sewage treatment plant.

“The existing corridor offers limited access to the waterfront,” said McFarland.

The current grid has westbound interchanges at West 25th Street (entrance)/West 28th Street (exit), West 49th Street (exit only), Edgewater Park (full interchange), Lake Blvd. (exit only), and ends with a signalized intersection at Clifton Blvd. Eastbound, the corridor begins from the intersection at Clifton and has interchanges at Lake Blvd. (entrance only), Edgewater Park (full interchange), West 45th Street (entrance/exit), and West 28th Street (entrance)/West 25th Street (exit).

Public hearings contributed to the current plan, which advanced through ODOT’s Project Development Process (PDP), which includes engineering and environmental studies to develop conceptual and feasible alternatives and ultimately identifies a preferred alternative.

As part of the studies, ODOT explored boulevard gateway concepts along the corridor and multi-model connections to the lakefront at the following locations: West Boulevard/Lake, Lake/Clifton, West 76th, Edgewater Park, West 73rd, West 65th, Norfolk and Southern Railroad over West Shoreway, West 54th, West 49th/West 45th, West 28th and West 25th.

“The four public meetings had approximately 140 to 200 in attendance,” said McFarland. “The consensus from the public was that some sort of change was needed, including improved connectivity to the Lakefront, an increase in green space, reducing traffic congestion and improving access for all users.”

The first phase of the work, $6.4 million, saw the rehabilitation of the Lake Avenue (completed August 2012) and West 76th Street (completed in July 2013) pedestrian tunnels under the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, with the Great Lakes crews arriving on site in summer 2012 and delivering in 2013. The work included improved access, lighting and drainage.

“The project was broken down into three different phases for funding purposes,” said McFarland. “The pedestrian tunnel renovation work was the first phase of the eagerly anticipated project. These tunnels are now ADA compliant and provide safe access to the lakefront for pedestrians and those on bicycles. The soil conditions in the area created challenges when constructing the ADA compliant ramps at the West 76th Street tunnel. The contractors and ODOT worked together to overcome this challenge by adjusting how the retaining walls were constructed.”

ODOT engineers and the city of Cleveland as well as Michael Baker Jr. Inc. are handling the overall design for the Lakefront West project (now Michael Baker International). They began their work in 2006 when the funding was approved.

“Balancing all of the modes of travel and working with existing/adjacent infrastructure were some of the key challenges,” said McFarland. “Relocating a portion of the NEORSD Westerly Interceptor and Cleveland Public Power relocations are among the utility issues that are being addressed.”

One of the major design changes is the permanent closing of the West 28th Street entrance ramp to the Shoreway eastbound.

“The ramp currently enters the Main Avenue Bridge into the left lane of the roadway,” said McFarland. “Because the sight distances are poor and merge distance is short, this has been a hotspot for collisions. The removal of the ramp will eliminate this conflict point and allow for safer travel. With the closure, motorists will use Detroit Avenue to West 45th Street to enter the Shoreway eastbound.

“Lower speed facility with low speed connections are among the other permanent roadway changes being planned by ODOT,” she said, “as well as West 73rd Connection, the Cul de sac at Tillman, realignment of the West 45th Street Intersection, realignment of the West 25th to Main Avenue, and the closure of the EB entrance ramp from West 28th Street.”

ODOT has a “District Safety Review Team” in each of the 12 ODOT Districts, and the ODOT Office of Systems Planning publishes an annual prioritized list of locations that may be viewed online.

“The state of Ohio has a statutory requirement that all public works improvements, including highway improvements, be supervised by a licensed professional engineer registered in the state,” said McFarland. “ It is the duty of the licensed professional engineer under whose supervision plans are prepared to ensure that improvements are designed to provide for the safety of all road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Occasionally safety flaws are identified in the construction phase of a project. Such flaws are addressed immediately when they are identified.”

ODOT has a variety of tools to help design roads to anticipate traffic flow and address safety concerns.

“At a very high-level, traffic demand is estimated using a traffic model maintained by each urban area’s metropolitan planning organization,” said McFarland. “This model considers land use, employment locations, census data and highway network connectivity to make forecasts of future traffic demand to help highway engineers design roads for expected future traffic needs. At a smaller level, the ITE Trip Generation Manual is used to estimate traffic for commercial and residential developments.

“Ohio is one of the first states in the country to fully implement AASHTO Ware’s Safety Analyst to prioritize safety locations across Ohio,” she said. “Safety Analyst uses state-of-the-art statistical methodologies to identify roadway locations with the highest potential for reducing crashes. The software system flags spot locations and road segments that have higher-than-predicted crash frequencies. It also flags locations for review based on crash severity.”

The second project, $21.1 million, started in July 2013 and to be delivered this fall, has Great Lakes crews extending West 73rd Street under the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks along the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway (SR 2) to connect with existing access to Edgewater Park in Cleveland.

“This phase of the project creates a connection to the lakefront and Edgewater Park in Cleveland that previously did not exist,” said McFarland, “and those who live in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood now have safe access to the Lake Erie. The work involves a grade separation of West 73rd Street and Norfolk Southern Railway, relocation of a portion of the NEORSD Westerly Interceptor and connection to the West Shoreway.

“ODOT coordinated with the railroad company throughout the project as the tracks had to be temporarily relocated during construction,” she said. “The railroad tracks will be restored to their original location and the area along the track will be restored to its original condition.”

The third project, $41.5 million, includes West Shoreway Reconstruction and safety improvements at West 28th Street and West 45th Street. The work began last June and should be delivered in the summer of 2018.

Jim Fox, Great Lakes vice president of operations, discusses the soil conditions encountered on the first phase.

“Horrible, silty conditions with a high groundwater table,” he said. “It made things very challenging. A series of sand drains were added by the design engineer and installed as we excavated down. Combined with the use of 2 and 3-inch pumps, we were able to manage the groundwater issues enough to get our work performed.”

The hardest part of the job was constructing the retaining walls for the ADA ramps.

“What you see is a conventional concrete retaining wall with some artistic stainless steel decorations, but that’s only part of the story,” said Fox. “Behind the concrete are combination sheet pile and soldier pipe pile walls. The soldiers are 36-inch diameter pipe piles with external locks for the sheet piles to thread into. Precise layout was important, and we used an elaborate two tiered template system to make sure everything fit properly. After the open pipe piles and sheets were driven to grade, we augured out the soil and filled with concrete. Some of the deeper pipe piles had soldier I-beams installed inside them for additional strength.”

Crews started the piling in September of 2012 and wrapped up in the winter. Concrete wall crews arrived in late fall and worked through the winter. The last few wing walls were complete in the spring of 2013 for the grand opening in early summer.

“It was a tough, little project,” said Fox. “We were sandwiched between the railroad and the Shoreway, with no laydown area to speak of. It was a major heavy/civil project on a ’postage stamp.’ A lot of planning and coordination was needed to make sure our pile crews and carpenter crews worked safely and efficiently.”

For the first phase, Great Lakes and its subcontractors had nearly 20 workers on site daily during the peak construction season. Some of the key subcontractors were Miller Cable for electrical and highway lighting, Foundation Steel for rebar and Jadco for the sealing and painting of the new and existing concrete walls and tunnels.

For the project, nearly 7,000 cu. yds. (5,351.8 cu m) of earth excavation and 100 cu. yds. (76.4 cu m) of concrete were removed. Crews placed combination steel shell pile — 4,950 linear ft. (1,508.7 m) and steel sheeting wall — 10,250 sq. ft. (952.2 sq m) with 600 cu. yds. (458 cu m) of fill concrete. In addition, 49,000 lbs. (22,226 kg) of reinforcing steel and 425 cu. yds. (324 cu m) of structural concrete were placed.

Great Lakes Construction bid on all three design-bid-build projects separately.

“They were all competitive bids, and we put a lot of work into them,” said Fox. “The other contractors who bid these projects are historically very aggressive with pricing. Being complacent at bid time just because we had the first project was not an option. We felt we were the right contractor for ODOT because of our versatility and ability to hit the aggressive milestones of the schedule. Our estimating team worked very hard and collaborated with operations and project management before the bid to squeeze every nickel we could to be the low and successful bidder.”

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