Archer Western to Construct 19 Bridges On Western Loop

Thu March 17, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

Archer Western Contractors has been awarded a $116.4-million contract by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to build a portion of the Western Urban Loop Project located in Guilford County.

It also is part of the larger Greensboro Urban Loop.

Nineteen bridges, including two curved bridges over Interstate 85, will be built as part of the contract.

The Greensboro Urban Loop, formerly known as Painter Boulevard, is a bypass that forms a circle around the city and is presently being built one section at a time. The Loop, approximately 40 mi. (64 km) long, is divided into three segments: Eastern Urban Loop, Southern Urban Loop and Western Urban Loop.

The Southern Loop has been completed, as have some portions of the Eastern Loop. The Western Loop, which begins at I-85 at the Southern Loop and extends to the Eastern Loop at Lawndale Drive, is further divided into three contracts. The first section, from I-40 to Bryan Boulevard, was awarded to the Thompson-Arthur Division of APAC-Atlantic Inc. and is slated for completion late 2007. The second section, awarded to Atlanta, GA-based Archer Western Contractors Ltd., extends from I-85 to I-40 and has a completion date of summer 2007. Construction of the third section, from Bryan Boulevard to Lawndale Drive, should start in early 2008.

“By summer 2007, approximately half the loop will be completed, including the Western and Southern Loops,” said Chris Kirkman, resident engineer of NCDOT.

Archer Western’s portion of the Western Urban Loop Project is 7.5 mi. (12 km) long and consists of 19 bridges that will cross eight interior roadways, I-85 and a Norfolk Southern Railway. The contractor will have 472,800 sq. yds. (395,000 sq m) of concrete pavement to place on this job and approximately 290,400 tons (263,000 t) of asphalt will be used.

According to Kirkman, the large amount of dirt moving required on this job has factored into the price tag of the project.

“What drives the cost up is so much dirt involved,” he explained.

A little more than 3.9 million cu. yds. (3 million cu m) of borrow excavation will be transported to the site. What’s more, approximately 2 million cu. yds. (1.5 million cu m) of unclassified excavation has to be removed from the site.

Kirkman described the two main curved bridges that go over the new I-85 as “pretty.” One of them is pretty impressive as well. The curved bridge on top will be roughly 1,000 ft. (305 m) long, the longest of all of the bridges on the contract, and will take eastbound traffic to I-85. The bridge underneath will take northbound I-85 vehicles to I-40.

The two bridges will be made of steel plate girders, which are being supplied by nearby Carolina Steel Corporation in Greensboro. Both bridges will have a total of 72 beams with the average beam being 9 ft. (2.7 m) tall. The longest beam section is 121 ft. (37 m), and the shortest is 51 ft. (15.5 m).

The longest span length between bridge piers is 246 ft. (75 m) while the heaviest beam weighs 81,000 lbs (36,740 kg). Workers plan on using a total of 13,092 bolts between the two structures.

According to Michelle Danisovszky, a NCDOT information communication specialist, Archer Western will be using a variety of equipment to build the two main bridges. Three crawler cranes, a 50-ton (45 t) hydraulic crane, a 22-ton (19.8 t) boom truck and five 60-ft. (18 m) personnel lifts will all be used on the structures.

Archer Western, NCDOT and local law enforcement officials deliberated over the safest and quickest way to set the beams for the two bridges. Initially, they pondered working 16 separate weekends, but that would require good weather, which is always uncertain. Eventually, they came up with a 26-day detour to get the job done.

The detour would be in place around the clock, seven days a week, from late February to March 23. The detour has parts of I-85 closed while through-traffic will be directed to I-85 Business/I-40.

“We’ve placed a series of message boards to make people aware of the detour,” Kirkman said.

The primary goal of the detour is to get the two bridges built; however, NCDOT and Archer Western want to make the most of the time that it has while traffic is rerouted.

“We’re trying to do a lot of other things to minimize the inconvenience to the public,” Kirkman said. “While we have a detour, we try to make the best use of our time for safety purposes.”

Taking advantage of the closure is subcontractor World Fiber Technologies Inc., Alpharetta, GA, which will be installing four dynamic message signs, two northbound and two southbound.

NCDOT’s other top concern in addition to safety, as indicated by Kirkman, is environmental stewardship. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has designated and labeled 40 locations on the project as environmentally sensitive. Consequently, NCDOT will be installing and maintaining erosion control devices.

Additionally, many of the permitted areas are environmentally sensitive because there are streams in the vicinity. Long before the project began, NCDOT enlisted the help of researchers at North Carolina State University to monitor streams for turbidity and staging after-rainfall events in order to observe how the project will affect streams while collecting rainfall data as well.

Kirkman explained, “Setup prior to the project” will allow us “to see the before, during and after effect” of that project on the environment.

Portions of the new roadway will be built where there are streams. As a result, there will be seven stream restorations. This means the contractor must “move the old stream and build a new stream,” said Kirkman.

Archer Western’s contract also includes the construction of a railroad bridge.

“It’s the No. 2 track in North Carolina for train traffic,” Kirkman said, “and one of the busiest tracks in [the state].”

Bridges aside, the contract consists of the construction of six box culverts. Subcontractor, Haymes Brothers Inc., of Chatham, VA, has finished five of the culverts so far. Other particulars of the project include 3 mi. (4.8 km) of noise and retaining walls. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) also will be installed, consisting of signs, cameras and monitoring facilities.

Officials at NCDOT said that once the Western Urban Loop is completed, drivers will see an improvement in congestion and an increase in mobility while traveling through the western part of Greensboro.