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Contracting Hoosiers Outline Game Plan for I-465 Overhaul

Sat September 16, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

Once the snow and ice melted in Indiana last spring, Hoosiers prepared themselves for the inevitable road construction and the lane restrictions that go with the change of season. Kicking off the warm-weather work this year was an extensive project on Indianapolis’ east side.

Since April 24, the southbound lane of Shadeland Avenue south of Fall Creek Road and the 46th Street bridge over I-465 has been closed. As a result, traffic was bottled up during the early stages of the project while crews performed bridge and overhead beam removal.

Because Indianapolis’ east side is a heavily-traveled area, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials hoped to keep as much of the traffic flowing during construction as possible. In May, the northbound traffic on I-465 began using crossovers to share the southbound lanes. Two lanes each direction are functioning currently.

However, as crews rehabilitate bridges and replace drainage structures and pavement, there is no access to I-465 from Pendleton Pike. Traffic is being detoured to Shadeland, then north to the 56th Street/Shadeland interchange. A single lane will be maintained for re-entry to northbound I-465 from this interchange. For northbound traffic wishing to exit I-465 at the 56th Street/Shadeland interchange, a crossover has been constructed.

Dan Keys, president of Berns Construction, said that ramps are being reconstructed to the I-67 interchange, forcing the closure of the main line of the interstate. Revamping of the rest of the interchanges, he said, is for future lettings, but plans are in the works to increase the capacity of the distributor lanes.

Keys’ company formed a joint venture with Weddle Brothers Construction and won the bid for this $31.5 million project. Keys said that for the past 15 years he has frequently joined with Weddle Brothers on projects. The partnership works well, with the two companies’ specialties complementing each other. Berns performs concrete paving, working primarily on highways. They do their own earthwork and drainage work. Weddle Brothers performs the bridgework.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Berns and Weddle Brothers each have about 100 people on the job site, in addition to numerous subs. Crews are working double shifts to meet the completion date of November 17. “There’s no allowance for weather,” said Keys. Crews lost a couple days to weather already, but Keys said they are still on schedule.

Staying on schedule to meet the expected completion date is a crucial part of Berns and Weddle’s contract with the state. “Most projects on interstates where there’s user interest have incentives,” Keys explained. “INDOT calls it the A and B contract concept. We bid the A portion – the cost to construct – and the B portion – how many days of lane restrictions – separately.”

INDOT calculates a dollar amount per day for ramp and lane closures - somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 per day – and figures that into the overall bid.

“Then INDOT adds the days to the A portion and selects the low bidder,” Keys said. In this case, he added, the low bid for the B portion was somewhere around $2 to 3 million.

The incentive stipulates that if the contractor can beat the estimated number of days on the B portion of the bid, the company gets a bonus. “If you better the time, you can receive a portion back,” Keys explained. “It can be anywhere from a couple hundred thousand dollars to a million dollars. It all depends on the size of the contract and the importance of the road you’re working on.”

INDOT speculates that Berns and Weddle can earn up to $1.2 million if they finish well ahead of schedule.

Which explains why crews are pulling double shifts. However, Keys indicates that it’s a trade-off. “If you spend a lot in overtime to get the job done, it wipes out the bonus you get from the incentive,” he added.

Next Phase

Once the northbound lanes of I-465 are complete, the same process will be applied to the southbound lanes, using crossovers to shift traffic to the new northbound lanes and constructing a crossover for southbound traffic wishing to exit at 56th Street/Shadeland Avenue. Because there will be no access from southbound I-465 to Pendleton Pike, traffic must exit at the 56th Street/Shadeland Avenue exit and will be detoured south on Shadeland. This phase began in late July.

Phase six is scheduled to take place in November, and involves opening southbound Shadeland south of Fall Creek; shifting southbound I-465 traffic to the new southbound lanes; opening the new southbound ramp at the 56th Street/Shadeland interchange, as well as the new exit ramp to 56th Street; and removing crossovers in order to replace median barriers between south- and northbound lanes.

What the Future Holds

The design for the second part of the I-465/56th Street interchange project has not been completed. Project Manager for INDOT Erin Beikman said, “The 2003 plans are to realign the interchange at 56th Street. Currently, INDOT is investigating the right-of-way concerns in the area and drawing up some preliminary design plans. When those preliminary plans are finished, INDOT will begin surveying and making offers for property. The natures of the interchange [cloverleaf, fly-overs, etc] has not yet been determined, but the ’do nothing’ option has received little to no consideration.”

Final design approval is expected to come later this year. Once the preliminaries have been arranged and the project is let to bid, expect to see a Berns and Weddle joint venture taking a hard look at the project.

Lori Lovely

Lori Lovely is an award-winning journalist, editor and author of the children's book Isadora's Dance. She has worked for newspapers, magazines and niche publications, covering a wide-ranging list of topics that includes motor sports, construction, MSW, energy, environmental issues, water, animal rights and issues, history, Native American issues and people, real estate and home decor, farming and more. Her degrees in History taught this dedicated professional to research thoroughly and ask detailed questions in order to winnow interesting facts that convey the essence of the story. As a seasoned writer and compassionate storyteller, she accurately portrays the subject in a manner that entrances the reader.

When she's not working on assignment, Lori is tending to her historic Indiana farm, where she raises alpacas. An inveterate animal lover, this vegetarian enjoys spending time with her animals and working in her garden.

Read more from Lori Lovely here.

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