Construction Nears End on Cajon Pass Project

Construction is in the home stretch on California’s I-15 Cajon Pass Rehabilitation Project that involves freeway upgrades through the well-traveled Cajon pass in San Bernardino County.

Thu September 03, 2015 - West Edition
Chuck Harvey

Construction is in the home stretch on California’s I-15 Cajon Pass Rehabilitation Project that involves freeway upgrades through the well-traveled Cajon pass in San Bernardino County.

Caltrans expects the project to be completed in spring of 2016, a few months ahead of schedule. Southbound reconstruction is scheduled for completion by Thanksgiving of this year.

Coffman Specialties Inc. in San Diego, a female-owned business specializing in large construction projects and Parsons Corp. in Pasadena, providing engineering, construction, technical and management services are design-build partners on the project.

Caltrans is the lead agency for the $120 million project, and reported that the design-build process has reduced the timeline by three years. That’s important, because I-15 is the main route from Southern California to Las Vegas. Commuters use it to travel from the high desert to reach jobs in Riverside and San Bernardino and truck traffic tends to be heavy along the route through the pass.

The builders made sure traffic could continue rolling during construction by using crossover lanes, which allow one or two lanes of I-15 traffic to be shifted to lanes on the opposite side of the freeway. This required some specialty equipment, including a Zipper, which is a wheeled machine that quickly changes barriers and creates crossover lanes so another lane can be closed down. Motorists, excluding freight-hauling trucks, use the crossover lanes while construction takes place on several of the freeway lanes to their right.

To keep traffic moving during construction, Caltrans is using a southbound crossover or bypass lane approximately 1.5 mi. (3.9 km) north of Highway 138 to about 2 mi. (5.1 km) south of Cleghorn Road. The crossover lane will be in place until Sept. 30.

The project includes replacement of concrete slabs in the Cajon Pass that are beyond their life cycle. It covers 50-lane mi. (80.5 km) on a stretch of freeway between Kenwood Ave. on the south and the southern reaches of the city of Hesperia on the north. New concrete for the freeway is being cured to ensure the hydration of cement in the concrete.

Paving equals 81.5 football fields at a thickness of nearly 14 in. (35.5 cm). Workers also are making improvements to 13 on- and off-ramps.

At press time crews were paving two outside lanes of southbound I-15 from south of Highway 138 to north of Kenwood Avenue. Workers used Portland cement concrete for the freeway lanes and asphalt for some of the shoulders and ramps. A 34-ft.-wide paver is being used to cover more roadway in less time.

Mitch Gamache, construction manager of Coffman Specialties Inc., said construction crews will have moved 200,000 cu. yds. (152,910 cu m) of dirt. Approximately 350,000 yds. (320,040 m) of concrete will be replaced. Plenty of material including concrete, rocks and dirt were available to be recycled, Gamache said.

Caltrans reported that construction crews continue day and nighttime work for the southbound lane and shoulder reconstruction. Crews continue to remove concrete and grade in preparation for paving.

Workers have conducted nighttime lane closures to permit work while the freeway is less busy. No detour has been necessary, as other northbound and southbound lanes remain open to traffic. Gamache said the only negative with the project so far has been delays in commutes. He said the contractors used software to determine traffic volumes at different times. Although traffic slowed considerably at times, commuters have been patient.

Gamache said the design-build system improved job scheduling and vehicle mobility throughout the job. The new pavement will have a life of more than 50 years, according to Gamache. Goals are to improve safety and mobility while making sure the project is environmentally sound.

Gamache praised the working relationship between Coffman-Parsons joint venture and Caltrans. “It has truly been a team effort and the cornerstone of the project’s success,” he said.

Along with the main contractors, numerous sub-contractors are busy lending their specialty talents to the project. They include Cal Stripe Inc. in Colton, Alcorn Construction in Freemont, Penhall Co. in Bakersfield, MCS Construction in El Cajon and Statewide General Contractors in Riverside.

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