Archer Western Contractors Ltd, is on schedule in meeting one of the most daunting challenges in its history –– building the western section of a new concrete loop around the city of Greensboro, NC, under a $117-million contract –– one of the largest ever let by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
The eight-mile section of Interstate 40 (I-40), sometimes five lanes wide in each direction, cuts through many populated areas. It was designed as a “fast-track” project to minimize impact on the public.
“In just over three years, we’ve got 4.5-million cubic yards of earth to move through the city of Greensboro, plus 19 bridges to build,” Senior Project Manager Daniel Lieberman told Construction Equipment Guide. “That’s the biggest challenge –– doing this in the midst of a city in the timeframe allowed. We cross over several main inner city roadways which are part of Greensboro’s infrastructure. Our section goes through the western part of the city; it’s not out in the woods by any stretch.”
Archer Western, which is a division of the Walsh Group, Chicago, IL, assigned about 140 people to the project, Since breaking ground on March 1, 2004, it has completed about 25 percent of the western section. NCDOT’s timetable calls for the work to be completed by June 2007.
“First we grade the area to make bridge sites accessible and ready for bridge crews,” Lieberman says. “As bridges are constructed, grading crews work on the main line sections of the project to tie the bridges together.
“We initially began clearing and grading for five bridge approaches on the south end of the job. We followed two schedules. First, we went from bridge site to bridge site to complete the dirt work for the approaches. When we placed enough dirt to get the bridges going, we backed away from the bridges and started placing the fill or excavating between the bridges with as much as 700,000 cubic yards of dirt. This was a larger, slower, build.”
The two-pronged approach allowed the dirt work and the bridge construction to proceed simultaneously instead of dirt first and then bridges.
The approach saved time. Archer Western has completed 50 percent of the substructure foundation work on the 19 bridges in the first nine months of construction.
Equipment on the bridge work includes two 50-ton cranes, one 40-ton crane, and a 100-ton crane with driving hammer.
The longest bridge on the project is a “hammerhead” design (resembling a T) 1,014 ft. long.
Changed the Schedule
The original schedule called for Archer Western to first work on and open a ramp section called the “C Slip.”
“This would have delayed the construction of the bridges on the south end by close to a year,” Lieberman says. “We requested a change to not open the ramp and changed the traffic configuration in order to immediately begin the first five bridges instead of waiting for the ramp to be built and then working between the ramp and the highway.”
The concrete roadway will be part of I-40 when complete. Connecting with I-85, it will be from three lanes to five lanes wide in each direction. The terrain is not very hilly. The south end of the project is through sand rock while the north end is red clay.
Lieberman says Archer Western has already completed one million yards of embankment in the loop. The entire loop is called Painter Blvd., while the eight mile section is called the Greensboro Western Loop.
About 30 percent of the loop, completed in previous projects, now carries traffic; 20 percent is under construction, and 50 percent, including most of the loop’s northern section, is not yet released for
Lieberman previously worked on two other sections of the loop.
Phases of Work
The roadwork begins with stabilizing the soil - preparing the surface of the dirt by hardening with lime or cement. The next phase is laying down asphalt, and, finally, about 13 in. of concrete.
Archer Western has obtained about 2.3-million yards of dirt on-site. The remaining three million yards is being imported to the project from off-site locations, using 20 to 30 trucks to haul the dirt from locations usually about three miles away,
“Once you find land which looks desirable because of its location or the terrain, the process of approvals to access the land begins,” Lieberman says. “We’ve been successful; we’ve pretty much found all the dirt that we need.”
A subcontractor is providing an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for the highway under a $3.2 million contract. The system includes message boards, warning signs and street lighting.
Vast Array of
Archer Western has put an army of equipment, some of it rented from Carolina Cat’s Greensboro office, on the Western Loop.
A Cat 375 tracked backhoe, two Cat 365 backhoes, a Cat 345 backhoe and two Cat 320 backhoes are performing excavation.
Equipment on the roadwork also includes three rubber-tired front end loaders -- a Volvo L90, two Volvo L70’s and a Volvo L50 -- two Cat 815 compactors, two 84 inch compactors, a Cat 14G grader, a Cat 140 grader, three Cat D6 dozers, a Cat D7 dozer, a Cat D3 dozer, a John Deere 750 dozer, a John Deere 450 dozer and a John Deere 550 dozer.
Much of the equipment, especially the newer units, was owned by Walsh, and is part of their fleet.
Lieberman says subcontractors are also supplying a lot of equipment to help move the amount of dirt required in a short timeframe.
Walsh, and its Archer Western division, are among the largest and most diversified contractors in the U.S., working on heavy highway construction, buildings, sewage treatment plants and a wide range of other projects.