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Wed May 24, 2023 - Midwest Edition #11
As one of the largest highway funding efforts by the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT), the Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program continues reaching milestones. Crews on the multi-phased undertaking are currently focused on segments four and five, which include the I-29/I-480/West Broadway System Interchange project and Madison Avenue interchange reconstruction.
"On the I-29/I-480/West Broadway project, motorists have been highly impacted both by interstate closures and local road closures," said Scott Schram, Iowa DOT District 4 engineer. "However, by allowing major interstate closures, the reconstruction of the I-29/I-480/West Broadway interchange has accelerated remarkably, slashing the anticipated construction time frame from five-and-a-half years to a mere three. This approach also ensures both the contractor and travelers can navigate a safer work zone.
"On the Madison Avenue project, motorists have not had major impacts to date, other than occasional overnight full closures or lane closures on I-80 and/or Madison Avenue. This spring, the ramp from Madison Avenue to I-80 eastbound will be fully closed until late fall for reconstruction. However, two lanes in each direction along I-80 will remain open to traffic throughout the duration of the construction contract."
Ames Construction Inc. of Burnsville, Minn., is the general contractor for the I-29/I-480/West Broadway Interchange and Hawkins Construction Company of Omaha, Neb., serves as general contractor of the I-80/Madison Avenue Interchange. A majority of the subcontractors and suppliers are local to the metro area.
According to the Iowa DOT website, the $180 million I-29/I-480/ West Broadway System Interchange project will address capacity needs, improve safety and correct functional design issues. It provides direct access to West Broadway from I-29 via one-way frontage roads and creates safe vehicle movement between the interstates, while reducing driver's lane changes.
The $61 million Madison Avenue interchange reconstruction is progressing well. Work on the project has presented unique challenges involving a creek and railroad track, but processes have been streamlined, and crews have settled into establishing a production routine. Reconstruction began in the fall of 2022, with the eastbound bridges and ramp.
The project was divided into two contracts. The westbound contract will be awarded late this year. Reconstruction of the interchange is expected to be complete in 2025.
"The project is necessary to meet current interstate design standards and capacity needs," said Schram.
"It includes construction of longer acceleration lanes when merging onto I-80 and will allow drivers to turn right directly from Madison Avenue onto the I-80 westbound ramp without stopping. Today, there are only three through traffic lanes on Madison Avenue through the interchange, and the project will add a fourth.
Schram noted that much has been accomplished since construction of the Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvements first began years ago. He added that coordination remains critical to the success of the I‑29/I‑480/West Broadway System Interchange project. Construction is occurring in and next to residential areas, meaning access to homes, noise, vibration and dust are a challenge for contractors and residents.
"To address concerns, the team reevaluated when street closures could occur to allow demolition to happen earlier in the day or over weekends to limit the amount of noise at night."
With significant traffic on both interstates and the interchange, the Iowa DOT has been concerned about traffic impacts during construction. The project team developed innovative staging and maintenance of traffic plans that allowed the contractor to close several interstate system ramps and mainline roadways for long periods of time. Regional and local detours were developed to assist drivers to get where they want to go in the most efficient way.
I-29/I-480/West Broadway construction is centered on completion of bridges and mainline interstate roadway, lighting and signing to allow the interstate and the remainder of the 27 interchange ramps to reopen this year. In 2023, most of the work will consist of constructing the new I-29 bridges over local streets, constructing the interstate pavement, median barrier rails, roadway lighting, signage, grading and seeding in order to reopen the interstate this year.
There have been significant openings for the I-29/I-480/West Broadway project, including opening of new West Broadway connections, new 40th Street and Dodge Riverside Drive reconstruction. New ramps from I-480 eastbound were opened to I-29 northbound and southbound.
I-29 southbound was closed in late 2022, with traffic diverted to the newly completed frontage road. By the end of 2022, the project was ahead of schedule and approximately 75 percent complete.
Demolition has involved 12 bridges over 9th Avenue, 2nd Avenue, West Broadway, Avenue G, 41st Street and ramps between I-29 northbound, southbound and I-480. There are three flyover bridges for the interchanges between I-29 northbound, southbound and I-480. Steps involved in building the flyover bridges include traffic staging, existing bridge demolition, survey, delivery of materials and driving H-pile to support the bridge.
Significant segment four tasks include completion of bridges and mainline interstate roadway, lighting and signing to allow the interstate and the rest of the interchange ramps to reopen this year. The intersection of 9th Avenue also must be finished.
According to Iowa DOT assistant district engineer Wes Mayberry, the biggest challenges related to the Madison Avenue Interchange project include working with the high-water table in the area and other geotechnical issues that need to be addressed to stabilize the existing soil upon which the new bridges and pavement are being built. The project site has experienced local flooding due to winter and early spring rain events, which has further complicated the construction process.
"Despite these challenges, the team has collaborated effectively with the contractor to develop appropriate mitigation strategies that will be used throughout the duration of construction," said Mayberry. "Although these challenges will remain throughout the duration of the contract, the team has worked well with the contractor to mitigate them."
Mayberry said bridge construction for the I-80 eastbound bridges over Madison Avenue and Valley View Drive will continue throughout the spring and summer. Lightweight foam concrete fill has begun, with placement of the EPS Geofoam blocks shortly to follow, followed by the installation of the tilt-up retaining wall panels. PCC pavement and storm sewer work is ongoing.
With segment five, several areas of detour pavement have been completed, allowing for traffic shifts into different configuration sub-stages. New storm sewer systems have been installed and I-80 eastbound traffic has been shifted into the median area to allow new PCC pavement to be placed. Several bridge piers have been completed, with others under construction. Work on retaining wall systems has begun at several locations.
Substructure work on all three bridges under the current I-80 eastbound contract will be completed this spring, with girder erections planned for this summer, followed by deck pours to complete the bridge work. The retaining wall systems will also be completed at various locations this summer.
The I-80 eastbound entrance ramp from Madison Avenue will be closed from May to November of 2023 for reconstruction. The I-80 westbound contract will be let in the late fall of 2023, which will include demolition of all the existing eastbound and westbound bridges, construction of the new westbound bridges and pavement and reconstruction/ widening of Madison Avenue.
Mayberry explained that the mild winters have allowed contractors to build bridge substructures during colder months without much interruption. Construction progress made over the winter is one reason both projects continue to be ahead of schedule. Also, the lack of rain last year helped the contractor continue construction with minimal weather delays.
Main equipment being used by crews includes Manitowoc and Terex cranes; Cat excavators; Cat 330 or greater loaders; Cat dozers, D8 or greater; Cat motor graders; various mini-excavators; skid loaders; dump trucks; vibratory rollers; concrete pavers; portable concrete batch plants; portable concrete crusher plants; subgrade trimmers with concrete hopper attachments; JLG boom lifts; JLG forklifts; and power brooms.
Required materials include Portland cement concrete; structural steel girders; concrete girders; class 10 sand and clay embankment; and full-height tilt-up wall panels at numerous retaining wall locations on the Madison Avenue contract.
While there's a great deal of activity still to come, Mayberry said significant progress has been made on both projects, which are a true team effort.
"Iowa DOT appreciates the cooperation of all our project partners; the work of design and contractor teams; and the public's flexibility and patience as we work to improve safety and the ability to move growing numbers of people and goods through this critical area of our state. While our work is far from done, completion is in sight." CEG