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Caltrans Begins $225M Extension on SR 52 in Santee

Mon March 09, 2009 - West Edition
Erik Pisor

A 4-mi. (6.4 km), $225 million extension of existing SR 52, which includes construction of a four-lane interchange at SR 67 and 13 bridges throughout the city of Santee, Calif., is under way.

Currently SR 52 runs east from Interstate 5 in La Jolla, nearly a mile from the coast, to Santee where it terminates at SR 125.

Located several miles east of the city of San Diego, Santee is bordered by SR 125 to the west and SR 67 to the east, which both connect to Interstate 8. However there is a 4-mi. gap between these two routes because of SR 52’s termination at SR 125. This means that Santee residents wishing to travel on Interstate 8 must first drive along local roads, often for several miles, prior to accessing routes 125 or 67. Similarly residents wishing to drive in or out of Santee on SR 52 must drive on local streets until they reach the SR 125 interchange.

The SR 52 extension project, dubbed the Sunny Side Gateway Project, will extend SR 52 from SR 125, through Santee, until it reaches SR 67.

Joel Haven, SR 52 corridor project director for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), said, “The extension will ease the current congestion on local Santee roads, and along Interstate 8 and SR 52 during peak commute times.”

Caltrans estimated that by 2025, the SR 52 to SR 67 segment will carry approximately 110,000 vehicles a day.

Funded in part by $133 million from the California Proposition 1B Transportation Bond Fund and $55 million from a local half-cent sales tax measure, the Sunny Side Gateway Project is divided into three construction segments. Haven said the goal is to complete all segments by December 2010.

Currently under construction are two segments of the extension, the construction of a four-lane interchange, at SR 67, and the extension of SR 52, from SR 125 to Cuyamaca Street.

“Construction began on the SR 125 to Cuyamaca segment first, as this portion of the extension will take the longest to reach completion,” Haven said.

SR 125 to Cuyamaca

This 2-mi. (3.2 km), nearly $57 million extension of SR 52 began construction in January 2008 and is approximately a three-year project, according to Duff Joseph, project superintendent for Lakeside-based general contractor Erreca’s Inc.

The project involves constructing two east and westbound lanes, from the point where SR 52 ends at SR 125 to Cuyamaca Street, and auxiliary lanes at the routes 52 and 125 interchange. Joseph reported that as of late January the majority of embankment work for the new freeway had been finished and two bridges had been stressed and completed.

In total 11 bridges will be constructed by Erreca’s and an additional 23 subcontractors at six different locations. The majority of bridge and freeway work, which involves excavating, grading, paving, rolling, pile work and the stressing and erecting of bridge components, is being conducted primarily during the day, with some false work being conducted at night.

“All pile holes for the bridges have been driven and all abutment footings put in place,” Joseph said, “and 17 of 22 bridge abutments have been constructed and different stages of bridgework is currently under way for all 11 bridges.”

Equipment being used on-site includes: scrapers, excavators, backhoes, loaders, forklifts, motorgraders, cranes, bulldozers, compactors, deck finishing machines, pavers, rollers and dump trucks. Joseph explained that no specialty equipment has been used and Erreca’s owns the majority of the on-site equipment. However some equipment was rented locally from Hawthorne Rent-It Service, San Marcos, Calif., B&B Heavy Equipment Rental, Lakeside, Calif., and Sunstate Equipment Co, headquartered in Phoenix.

Upon completion of the SR 125 to Cuyamaca project 22,500 cu. yd. (17,202 cu m) of concrete will have been poured for the 11 bridges, and 4.8 million lbs. (2.17 million kg) of rebar used, according to Joseph. Additionally a total of 2,830 cu. yd. (2,163 cu m) of concrete and 543,000 lbs. (24,630 kg) of rebar will be used to construct six retaining walls and one box culvert. A total of 1.2 million cu. yd. (917,466 cu m) of earth will have been excavated or imported, and 35,250 tons (31,978 t) of asphalt concrete will have been poured.

Joseph said, “Although challenges always arise on projects, this project so far has gone ’relatively well’ with no serious delays or obstacles. This is due in part to the work done by Caltrans and other involved agencies prior to construction.”

“We’re going through an established city, so we had to work a lot of things out,” Haven said, adding that a significant amount of right of way had to be purchased and environmental impact measures had to be adopted, because a portion of the project runs through Forester Creek.

Because two of the bridges will be built above an existing San Diego Trolley line and near Gillespie Field, a small airport, Caltrans had to work closely with the Public Utilities Commission, the San Diego Trolley and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to obtain additional grade crossings.

“When we have our cranes up we have to coordinate with them [the FAA],” Haven said.

Although construction of the two bridges above the trolley line and the airport presents a unique challenge for Erreca’s, Joseph said the project remains on schedule.

SR 52/SR 67 Interchange

Skanska USA Civil began construction on this nearly $67 million freeway interchange in May 2008 with an anticipated completion date of November 2010. The project encompasses the construction of four cast-in-place, pre-stressed concrete box girder bridges, reaching 75 ft. (23 m) high, that will make up the four freeway connectors, according to Kurt Thomas, senior project manager for Skanska.

The foundation work for the bridges is well under way. There are 34 large cast-in-drill-hole piles that are up to 3.38 yd. (3 m) in diameter and 33.9 yd. (31 m) long. As of mid-January Thomas said nine bridge columns had been completed and Mike Moen, project engineer for Caltrans, said the interchange project was 28 percent complete.

Because the interchange project is considered a mining and tunneling job, all pile work has taken place using mining and tunneling safety standards enforced by OSHA.

The foundation subcontractor, Condon Johnson and Associates, Oakland, Calif., used a pneumatic hammer drill unit mounted on a Manitowoc 4100 crawler crane to advance the holes through the overlying decomposed granite into the hard granite “rock sockets.” Caltrans bid price for the rock socket is $35,000 a meter, Thomas said.

“All of the pile concrete is placed underwater using a ’bentonite slurry displacement method.’ PVC inspection tubes are then placed inside the pile rebar cages. After the piles are radioactive gamma-gamma tested by Caltrans, using the inspection tubes, the column cages are erected by Skanska and subcontractor CMC Fontana Steel using another Manitowoc 4100,” Thomas explained. “The crane slips the column cages inside the pile rebar cage and the top 7.5 meters of concrete is poured to pile cutoff.”

In total nearly a million dollars worth of equipment and tools are being used to conduct the bridge’s foundation work, with crews working six, 10-hour weekly shifts mainly during the day.

Moen said, “As of mid-January half of the interchange’s foundational work had been completed, with abutment placement and false work recently under way.”

According to a project report, more than 196,192 cu yd. (150,000 cu m) of imported borrow has been placed to allow the settlement periods for the abutments to be completed.

“Aside from construction of the interchange, this project also entails roadway improvements throughout the area including: the widening of SR 67 near the interchange; and the construction of type 1 retaining walls, MSE Walls, a sound wall and a soil nail wall with drainage and electrical work,” Thomas said.

The median widening of SR 67 has been completed and traffic switched to allow for the outside widening. Drainage and wall work is currently under way.

“One of the difficult conditions encountered on the project has been unanticipated rock in the drainage and roadway excavation cuts,” Thomas explained. “However the savings on the imported borrow has balanced the costs for these problems.”

Due to the fast-paced 30-month schedule for the interchange Skanska has had to use key personnel from outside the San Diego area to construct the project. With the aid of these employees, along with the help of local-based personnel, the scheduled project completion date of November 2010 remains on track.

Cuyamaca to Magnolia

In December 2008, a nearly $30 million contract was awarded to San Marcos-based FCI Constructors for the middle portion of the SR 52 extension, which would continue the two east- and westbound lanes of SR 52 from Cuyamaca to Magnolia until it reached the interchange.

“However, on January 14 Caltrans received word that due to California budget issues this portion of the project has been suspended,” Moen said. “Whether the project can start or not will be a monthly decision handed down by the state. Once given the green light, the majority of work for this portion of the project entails earthmoving, grading and paving, with one bridge to be constructed at Cottonwood Avenue. Close to one million cubic feet of dirt will have been moved upon completion.”

In addition to the bridge and two east and westbound lanes, sound walls, sound berms and an auxiliary lane will be constructed. The median of Cuyamaca to Magnolia portion of freeway also will be wide enough that future lane expansion can occur. Coordination with the FAA also will be necessary for this project as well, since the new freeway also will border Gillespie Field.

The project was slated to begin construction in February of this year. CEG

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