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Contractor Outwits Mother Nature on U.S. Hwy. 281 Job in ND

Wed February 02, 2005 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson



Heavy rains for the first two months of a road widening project could have wreaked havoc on an early fall deadline but, thanks to an accelerated work schedule, the U.S. Highway 281 project was finished several weeks early.

“May and June this year and last year were awfully wet, so work was almost to a standstill during those months,” explained Willie Dallmann, project manager with the North Dakota Department of Transportation. “Then, in July we had decent weather and we were able to finish a month and a half ahead of time. The deadline was Oct. 10 this year.”

Orrin Holen Construction Inc. in McClusky, ND, was the prime contractor for the grading portion of the project.

“We worked extra hours in August and September,” explained Ryan Holen of Orrin Holen. “We put in a lot of overtime, working Saturdays and some Sundays to finish the project on time.”

He added that when it rained, two to three inches fell and some portions of the project stayed wet for a long time.

A poured in-place box culvert, constructed by Swingen Construction in Grand Forks, ND, was placed as a diversion in Beaver Creek where the water was almost flowing over the road. The culvert aided in flowing the water away from the project. Each of the three cells of the culvert measured 14-ft. wide by 12-ft. high and included a 24-in. pipe and 72-in. pipes on each side.

Initially work began on the southern end of the 17.2-mi. section of highway but, because of the wet weather, crews were moved to the middle of the project where less precipitation had fallen. Grading then progressed in five-mi. segments.

The $8.7 million project, designed by Interstate Inc., Jamestown, ND, began at the southern edge of Jamestown on U.S. Highway 281 to North Dakota Highway 46.

The project included widening the shoulders 10 ft., 5 ft. on the northbound lane and 5 ft. on the southbound lane. Wider shoulders equal safety; previously there was not place to park if someone had vehicle trouble, Dallmann said. The driving lane remains 24-ft. wide, 12 ft. in each direction.

Large traffic increases –– which includes numerous trucks from Canada and those hauling potatoes to the new potato processing plant in Jamestown, in addition to the cattle trucks and the farm equipment that rely on Highway 281 –– aided in the need for a wider road, Dallmann added.

And now that the project is complete, the traffic has increased even more; traffic that once found alternate routes is now making Highway 281 its route of choice.

Widening the roadbed portion of the project began in 2003 using a mine and blend procedure, meaning 16 in. of the existing roadway was ground away and then mixed with 5 in. of Class 5 aggregate to create a new base, Dallmann explained.

“On these older roads, this one having been built in the early 1950s, we don’t do a complete regrade but get by doing this type of process.”

A wider roadway means pipe needed to be extended through the roadbed. Extensions were added to the reinforced concrete pipes that measure 24, 30, 40 and 48 in. Also, 88- by 54-in. arch pipe was installed, and a lot of corrugated steel, Holen explained.

Holen added that the company used six scrapers, including a Caterpillar 637, a 631, a small TS 13 and a TS 37.

“We had quite a few trucks like Mac trucks and we hauled all the gravel with Smithco side dumps.” The fill, about 1 million cu. yds., was hauled from some hills along the north end of the project, and from a borrow source about one mile from the main highway.

The gravel used came from a pit about four mi. west of the project, from locally owned land. Gravel Products in Minot, ND, crushed the gravel and Holen Construction hauled the 130,000 cu. tons of Class 5 gravel, placed it and packed it.

Between 35 and 40 people worked on the project, which included moving numerous utilities such as rural water, telephone lines, electrical and gas lines.

“Some were moved permanently to a different location and some were lowered,” Holen said.

During the summer of 2004, 5 in. of blacktop was added, which subsequently raised the height of the roadway five in. The asphalt was placed by prime contractor Northstar Materials Inc., formerly Thorsen Construction, in Bemidji, MN.

Several months of subzero winter temps prompted the use of Superpave, which is a PG grade Polimer plastic mixed with AC oil that is a little more plastic so it doesn’t crack as easily.

“But in this country even rubber cracks,” Dallmann explained. “It also helps the road withstand the truck traffic and their heavy loads.”

To make the road useable during the winter, a couple of inches of asphalt was placed by Border States Contracting, and areas affected by frost were completely removed and repaved.

However, this is just the beginning of the Highway 281 project. The same mine and blend procedure will be used in the next phase, which starts at the Highway 46 junction and proceeds to Edgeley, ND, a 20 mi. stretch.

The shoulders will be widened in 2007 and the blacktop placed in 2008, Dallmann explained. Eventually Highway 281 will be widened all the way to the South Dakota line, which is another 30 mi. from Edgeley.

And, another portion of the Highway 281 project is currently being proposed by the North Dakota Department of Transportation to rehabilitate a 1.08-mi. section of the highway within the city of Jamestown from 17th St. Southwest to 29th St. Southwest.

The existing roadway and frontage roads would be rehabilitated and some right turn lanes on approach roads would be added. Left turn lanes may remain as they are.

One option being considered is to reconstruct the entire roadway, which would include removing the existing pavement, adding new base material and replacing the pavement.

New lighting and sidewalks will also be considered, according to information from Interstate Engineering Inc. in Jamestown, ND.