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Brasfield & Gorrie Rubblizes Tight Deadline on I-65

Fri October 10, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Going into the summer, Birmingham, Ala., contractor Brasfield & Gorrie LLC had a lot of money riding on getting work on a portion of Interstate 65 around Montgomery completed on time.

The company faced a $100,000-per-day penalty for finishing two phases involving rubblization and rehabilitation beyond the tight 23-calendar-day timeframes for each phase that were set out in the contract, said Temple Millsap, project manager of Brasfield & Gorrie.

The firm — lead contractor for the overall $79.6 million road- and bridge-widening job still in progress on the 4.6 mi. (7.4 km) stretch of I-65 — instead was able to capture bonuses for finishing the two phases ahead of schedule, said Millsap.

While he said the meticulous planning and good scheduling made that possible, the job’s rubblization subcontractor played a key role in moving the job along.

Resonant Machines Inc. (RMI) Worldwide — a Tulsa, Okla.-based company that manufactures the rubblization equipment it uses — was able to get its portions of the two phases done in a matter of days, “so we were able to get asphalt in pretty quickly,” Millsap said.

RMI crews were on site June 25 to 29 for the northbound lanes and July 23 to 27 for the opposite direction.

Brasfield & Gorrie earned a $100,000-per-day bonus for each day before 17 that it finished the phases — the northbound phase was completed in 13 days from June 22 to July 5, and the southbound phase was done in 12 — July 27 to Aug. 8.

RMI had two of its resonant rubblization machines on the job for both phases, though there was a problem with one of the machines blowing an engine on the first phase, which left one machine to do the bulk of the 46,000 sq. yds. (38,500 sq m) of roadway on the northbound lanes, said Tony George, a regional vice president of RMI who was onsite for the first phase.

On the second phase, RMI had two machines running 24 hours a day, said George, noting another regional vice president, Aaron Elmore, was onsite for that phase.

Because it was a fast-track project, the company’s chief executive officer, Jay Wardrip, also spent time onsite, George said.

“We pretty much did a ’calling all cars’ on that one,” he said.

George said his company’s machines, manufactured in Tulsa, Okla., approach rubblization in a totally different way than other machines do.

The RMI machine uses a beam that weighs about 8,000 lbs. (3,600 kg) and a low-amplitude, high-frequency resonant impact hammer ranging from 18 to 26 in. (46 to 66 cm) wide, George explained.

“It bounces up and down 44 times per second with 200,000 pounds of drive force,” to break the concrete at a 45-degree angle, George said. “All the energy is absorbed in the slab, but it doesn’t transfer down into the base.”

The machine allows the road to be left in place by fracturing the concrete and debonding all the steel so that the existing road is made into an aggregate base for the new roadway, he said.

It reuses the existing concrete as aggregate and doesn’t create waste that ends up in a landfill, George said.

It also creates a 25- to 35-year road at about one-third of the cost in about one-fifth of the time of traditional high-impact drop hammer and multi-hammer methods, he said.

APAC-Southeast Inc. of Birmingham was the subcontractor on the asphalt paving for the two phases, laying nearly 100,000 tons (90,700 t) of asphalt, Millsap said.

The stretch of Interstate 65 from the south side of Montgomery north to Prattville is probably one of the most heavily traveled in Alabama, and the stringent timetables were meant to minimize the time that work on existing roadway would slow traffic and close ramps in the work areas, Millsap said.

The $100,000-per-day penalty aimed to reduce both hazard and inconvenience caused by the work, he said. “They want to minimize the impact to the public, make it safer for everyone,” Millsap said.

During those periods, traffic was routed on each side of the newly constructed median, and all ramps on each side were closed to traffic, he said.

To prepare for the tight deadlines, Brasfield & Gorrie spent a lot of time planning and scheduling.

The company prepared for that crunch time in the months before summer by doing the “heavy work” — grading and paving lanes, he said.

The overall job includes construction of additional lanes on I-65 from the north end of the Catoma Creek Bridge to the south end of the Mill Street Bridge, from the grading, drainage, pavement and concrete pavement rubblization to bridge widening, lighting, signs and signals, according to project information provided by the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The contract also covers the bridge-widening work on I-65 from north of Fairview Avenue to the Alabama River Bridge in Montgomery, ALDOT said.

I-65 through Montgomery was completed in the 1970s, built to handle traffic loads expected 20 years in the future, according to ALDOT.

This project is intended to ease congestion on I-65 in and around Alabama’s capital city, where Highway 80 and Interstate 85 tie in to the interstate, by updating I-65 with an additional lane in each direction on the roadway and bridges as well as rehabilitation of the old roadway.

“The construction of additional lanes several years ago from Prattville to Northern Boulevard was a welcome relief to rush hour congestion. The construction of additional lanes through Montgomery will soon provide greater congestion relief,” according to the ALDOT project sheet, titled “Progress65: A Smooth Ride Ahead.”

Additionally, the concrete there has been settling unevenly and is just falling apart in some places, Millsap said. So it was important to get in and take care of the rehab work before it worsened.

So far, the project is on schedule to finish in summer 2009, well within the target October 2009 completion, Millsap said.

The job includes widening seven bridges (one precast and six steel), jacking four bridges, widening and repaving 10 ramps, widening mainline shoulders, adding 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) of lanes in the median (grading, storm drainage, paving and barrier walls), rubblizing and pavement overlay on the existing mainline roadway, and installation of new roadway lighting and signals, he said.

Millsap said that by the end of the project, roughly 60,000 cu. yd. (45,900 cu m) of dirt will be moved out, and roughly 70,000 cu. yd. (53,500 cu m) will be hauled in.

The soil conditions in the area, particularly where Interstate 65 was built are “unfavorable to construction,” Millsap said. “That’s been a constant battle.”

It’s a kind of clay material that holds a lot of water, he said, and they’ve had to bring in a lot of dirt and crushed aggregate to increase drainage so the water doesn’t get trapped under the new construction, he said.

The job also entails 290,000 tons (263,000 t) of asphalt, 35,000 tons (31,800 t) of crushed aggregate base, 30,000 tons (27,200 t) of No. 57 stone, 15,000 linear ft. (4,600 m) of storm drainage and 220 mi. (354 km) of pavement striping, Millsap said.

Crews are working in day shifts and night shifts, as much of the work must be done at night under lane closures, Millsap said.

The speed limit on the interstate is still at the reduced 45 mph throughout the construction zone, Millsap said. While work will continue well into next year, it should have a minimal impact on motorists through the end of the job, he said.

Two full lanes are open on both sides of the interstate, and all the ramps are open, Millsap said.

Other than minor traffic delays, the community should not be drastically affected by the project, except in the outcome, Millsap said. “This project will provide safer and more expedited travel for everyone that may travel through this area.” CEG

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