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Crews Complete Crossroads, Darnell Overpasses in WV

Thu September 07, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Tracy Carbasho

Motorists traveling on Interstate 64 through Cabell County in West Virginia can enjoy a smoother ride now that they no longer have to dodge orange-and-white construction barrels in two particular areas.

Replacement of the Crossroads and Darnell overpass bridges along I-64 in Huntington was completed in August. The eastbound and westbound twin bridges at both locations were replaced with a six-lane bridge with the directional traffic flow separated by a median wall.

“The bridge projects are part of the ultimate goal of widening I-64 to six lanes for about 50 miles, going all the way to the Kentucky border,” said Rob Pennington, construction engineer of District 2 of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH). “As each bridge gets replaced, that’s one more step we’ve completed.”

Only two lanes will be open in each direction until further widening of the interstate is completed. Until then, the innermost lanes on the eastbound and westbound sides near the median will be striped to deter the approximately 44,000 motorists who use I-64 in Cabell County each day.

Approximately 28 mi. of the interstate wind through Cabell and Wayne counties in southern West Virginia.

Pennington said the Crossroads project was unconventional due to the manner in which it was completed by the general contractor, Ahern & Associates Inc., a heavy-highway civil engineering company based in South Charleston, WV. The $4.5-million project, which got under way in April 2005, consisted of replacing twin bridges with one six-lane bridge over Norwood Road, also known as County Road 35.

What was supposed to be just a routine bridge replacement turned into an innovative project, although the contractor had to convince the state’s DOH that it would be an effective solution.

“Ahern proposed replacing the twin bridges by putting a tunnel under the interstate and bringing it up to interstate grade,’’ said Pennington. “The value was in the construction time because we shaved six months to a year off the project completion time and we saved at least $750,000. The contractor’s value engineering also greatly reduced the impact on motorists.’’

Pennington said the DOH spent more than a year rigorously reviewing Ahern’s unusual proposal before it decided to proceed with the contractor’s idea. One of the biggest concerns stemmed from the notion that the concept was so innovative and no other project in the Mountain State had been completed in exactly the same fashion.

“The idea was a first for the state and it took a while to understand how the contractor designed and performed the analysis for the project,’’ added Pennington. “There were also concerns about the design of the arch structure and its foundation, as well as transferring loads.”

Gene Thompson, vice president of Ahern Construction, said the original design involved the replacement of the twin bridges and the widening of the roadway, a complex job with the need for an enormous amount of traffic control.

“We built a concrete arch under the original bridges and backfilled the area with dirt and then encapsulated the old bridges in the dirt,” explained Thompson. “We took all of the traffic interference and put it under the bridges on a rural road. It was a cheaper way to do the project and it alleviated at least a year of detouring traffic.”

Thompson said the biggest challenge completing this type of project was the limited height under the bridges. Construction crews only had approximately 50 ft. of space to work within from the ground to the underside of the existing bridges. The height restriction resulted in myriad problems, such as the inability to use a crane boom.

“We had to come up with creative erection and structure schemes. For example, we used control low-strength material at the very top to put fill under the existing bridges,” said Thompson. “That eliminated the need to tear down the existing structures.”

The Darnell Road Overpass Bridge project, located 2 mi. east of the Crossroads structure, was completed at a cost of approximately $5.8 million. Preliminary work began in the fall of 2004 and construction got under way in March 2005 by Orders Construction Co. of St. Albans, WV. This project was the first section of I-64 in District 2 to be widened to six lanes.

The project included replacing the eastbound and westbound bridges on I-64 over Darnell Road and widening the interstate from four to six lanes. All of the widening was done in the median and included a variable height concrete wall. The entire widening project spanned 1 mi. with the new, wider bridge occupying approximately 150 ft. of that distance.

“The existing steel and concrete bridges were in poor condition and the shoulder width was obsolete,” said John Jones, vice president of Orders Construction. “The project is within the portion of I-64 that will ultimately all be six lanes. The new bridge occupies the same space as the old ones and has the additional width for the added lanes and shoulders.”

The new bridge, also made of steel and concrete, is more contemporary with integral abutments and a seamless design that eliminates the cracking problems that can occur when expansion joints are used.

Maintaining two lanes of traffic in each direction was difficult during the construction, especially since the DOH contract specified that traffic could not be restricted to a single lane in either direction between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. or 3 and 6 p.m. A fine of $1,000 an hour would have been imposed if the contractor failed to abide by the traffic control regulations, but Orders Construction never violated the provision.

The variable height concrete median slip forming also was a challenge since the wall varies from 42 in. to more than 80 in., depending on the pavement cross slopes.

Pennington said this project, which originally was not slated for completion until the end of October, also posed special challenges because there were adjacent paving and guardrail projects taking place at the same time. Jones said his crews worked over time to finish the project ahead of schedule.

A third project, located 8 mi. west of Darnell Road, is currently being completed by Turman Construction Co. of Barboursville, WV. The $4-million project includes the demolition of the existing 19th Street overpass bridges and the construction of one new structure.

The DOH awarded the contract to Turman in November 2005 and the expected completion date is Dec. 15, 2006.

“Right now, we’re 25 days ahead of schedule. From the time we bid the job, it was supposed to take two years to finish with a completion date of next year,” said Clarke Wilson, president of Turman Construction. “We worked a lot of overtime and got creative on our form work and our beam work. For instance, we used permanent cross frames instead of temporary ones.”

An interesting fact about the 19th Street project is that the Turman company built the original twin bridges in 1964. Over the years, deck deterioration and structural inadequacies became evident not only on these bridges, but also on the other overpass spans on I-64.

Traffic control topped the list of challenges on this project. In order to accommodate motorists and to facilitate the construction work, bi-directional traffic was placed on one bridge while the other was being dismantled and then the pattern was reversed after the first bridge was completed and the second had to be torn down.

Wilson said the project was expedited to a great extent because of Turman’s longstanding business rapport with its pre-cast supplier, the Lexington, KY-based Prestress Services, which accelerated its delivery dates. CEG

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