Gradex Inc. Construction is about one year away from completing the Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) $23.9 million U.S. 40 and U.S. 27 project in downtown Richmond.
Gradex Inc. is about one year away from completing the Indiana Department of Transportation's (INDOT) $23.9 million U.S. 40 and U.S. 27 project in downtown Richmond. The project, which is divided into three phases, started last March and should be completed in late 2018.
A unique aspect of the project is that Gradex is using prefabricated concrete panels for the U.S. 40 portion of the project.
The work will see the rebuilding of nearly two miles of southbound U.S. 27 and nearly one mile of eastbound U.S. 40, as well as the construction of new water mains, new drainage and modernized storm sewers, new ADA curb ramps and sidewalks and the installation of new traffic signals with wireless interconnectivity, and traffic signs.
This urban renewal project is being funded with state and federal funds. This stretch of U.S. 40 was constructed in 1934 and includes multiple overlays of underlying brick and concrete base. Eastbound U.S. 40 carries average daily traffic of 17,593 vehicles. U.S. 27 was constructed in the 1930s, and also includes multiple asphalt overlays over underlying brick and concrete pavement. Southbound U.S. 27 carries average daily traffic of 18,700 vehicles.
“The existing roadways are in poor condition, and frequent asphalt mill and resurface projects are no longer-cost effective,” said Nathan Riggs, information director, INDOT East Central District. “INDOT and the city of Richmond have been planning to improve both U.S. 27 and U.S. 40 for at least 13 years. This project will benefit the city of Richmond by providing new pavement and storm sewer infrastructure to last decades into the future. New sidewalks and ADA ramps will make the area more accessible for pedestrians as well.”
The U.S. 27 roadway and associated work was designed by Jim Loew, P.E. of Clark Dietz Inc. For U.S. 40, the new roads and underground infrastructure were designed by Jeff Brechbill, P.E. of First Group Engineering Inc.
“Working to deliver the project in a timely manner with so many different partners was a challenge,” said Brechbill. “This project utilizes a proprietary vendor for the precast concrete panels, and required approvals from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for utilizing a proprietary product and an experimental feature of precast concrete panels. In addition, coordination with numerous utilities in such a tight urban setting was tedious. Also, finding a suitable precast concrete supplier to work with the precast vendor was a time consuming undertaking. The use of removable precast concrete panels for this project will help INDOT decide whether to expand their use for other project types, possibly to include interstate patching with minimal disruption to traffic vs. conventional PCCP patching. The precast panels have a design life of 30 years.”
The U.S. 27 construction deals with southbound U.S. 27 (8th Street) from the Whitewater River bridge, where a previous construction project on Chester Boulevard had been completed, and proceeds south to the O Street overpass, where each direction of U.S. 27 splits, on the south side of Richmond.
Phase 1, which ends this fall, includes: straightening the alignment of southbound U.S. 27 near the intersection of North C Street; rebuilding State Road 121/North J Street approaching U.S. 27; and rebuilding both directions of U.S. 27 between North B Street and the Whitewater River, excluding the bridge over the railroad.
Because the work is taking place in the heart of Richmond, traffic calming measures were enacted to protect pedestrians, motorists and construction crews. Phase 1 work has U.S. 27 reduced to one lane in each direction between North B Street and the Whitewater River bridge.
Multiple traffic shifts will be required to maintain one lane in each direction and rebuild the roadway one side at a time, according to the project website. Access to and from intersecting streets will be temporarily closed while that side of the roadway is being rebuilt.
Phase 2 began on May 9 and is expected to be finished next summer. This work will see the rebuilding of the west half of southbound U.S. 27 between North C Street and the South O Street overpass, with traffic reduced to one lane and shifted to the east side of the road. A section between South C and F streets will temporarily remain shifted to the west side of the road.
The Eastbound U.S. 40 (South A Street and 11th Street) construction will span from the Whitewater River gorge bridge east to 11th Street, and will include 11th Street from South A Street north to Main Street. This work will start in early 2018, and its main benchmark is to rebuilding the road, with South A Street to remain open during construction, and 11th Street to be closed for up to 45 days, and U.S. 40 traffic will be detoured to 16th Street during the closure of 11th Street.
“Southbound U.S. 27 (8th Street) will be rebuilt one-half at a time,” states the web page. “One lane of traffic will be shifted to one side of the road while the other side is closed for construction. While some side street access will be closed, U.S. 27 will remain open during construction.”
Eastbound U.S. 40 (South A Street) also will be rebuilt one half at a time following similar traffic procedures.
INDOT has high hopes for the new pavement — concrete panels — for U.S. 40 between 3rd Street and 11th Street, particularly for urban renewal projects.
This construction method is being used in several other states, and this project will be the first to use precast concrete panel pavement in Indiana, according to the project's website. By using precast panels, INDOT intends to reduce the pavement depth and potential conflicts with existing underground utilities. These panels are removable and replaceable, so any future maintenance required on the underground utilities should not damage the pavement. In addition, using precast panels will reduce the time needed for construction, minimize future roadway maintenance needs and extend the pavement life expectancy.
Coley Mendenhall, Gradex's project manager, said that crews are making solid progress despite the many challenges.
“Our crews face many challenges while they work through developed urban areas,” he said. “Both vehicular and pedestrian traffic are constant concerns as we work in tight areas performing excavation and pipe installation. While we have a job to accomplish for INDOT, we always have to be aware that businesses in town need to continue to operate. We must keep sidewalks and delivery paths open, which means that we usually have to come up with creative logistic plans for moving our materials throughout the project.”
This project has a lot of aging infrastructure that is being replaced.
“Gradex has very experienced crews in the field who work through these challenging projects and complete the work in a safe and courteous manner,” he said. “When changes are necessary in the field, Gradex and INDOT work to find solutions and then keep the community informed using social media platforms, local newspapers and television.”
Working in a tight construction zone is not easy. E&B Paving Inc. expects to start installing the panels in April 2018.
“We're expecting to place 40 panels per-day on our most efficient days,” said Tony Korba, E&B's operation manager of the company's concrete division. “The panels delivered that day will be placed directly from delivery trucks to grade. After the utility work is complete, there will be four inches of number 43 stone subbase, which is placed and compacted. We then place ¾ of an inch of manufactured sand on top of the base. One of the tricky things about this job is that the sand has to be graded to plus/minus 1/8 of an inch to ensure that the panels are flush.
“When you're placing concrete on a conventionally built road, your main focus is the top finish,” he added, “but with these pre-cast panels, you're more worried about the final grade and the subbase to ensure good panel fit and profile. This will be our first time working with the replaceable panels, and we've done a lot of research and spoken with contractors who installed them. I saw some panels placed in Brooklyn and it was a success. The people doing the work shared their knowledge with me.”
Gradex and its subcontractor account for around 20 employees on site on average peak days. The subcontractors include: James H. Drew Corporation for traffic signal and road sign installation; Indiana Sign and Barricade for maintenance of traffic and permanent striping; E&B Paving for asphalt paving, concrete panel placement, concrete sidewalk and curbs; Decorative Paving for hardscape and brick sidewalks; Midwest Mole for directional drilling; Insituform for pipe lining; and Roudebush Grading for erosion control, sod and seed.
Gradex expects that crews will be able to work on pipe installation year-round, while other tasks that are weather dependent will be put on hold during the winter months.
Gradex has its work site office at 29 North 8th St. and is storing materials throughout the work zone where space allows.
Gradex is removing 69,000 sq. yds. of concrete, 15,000 tons of asphalt, 44,000 cu. yds. of earth, and more than a mi. of abandoned infrastructure pipe. New materials include 20,000 sq. yds. of concrete sidewalk, 33,000 tons of asphalt, 46,000 linear ft. of pipe, over 350 new drainage structures, and 12,165 sq. yds. of removable precast concrete panels.
Gradex utilizes an onsite mechanic to perform daily repairs and routine maintenance. Additional mechanics are dispatched from its shop in Indianapolis as needed. The project has the company using: excavators, GPS bulldozers, front end loaders, rollers, and graders.
“Gradex uses equipment from Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu and Case,” said Jason Dapp, president of Gradex. “We have used equipment as large as a 336 Cat excavator and as small as a Cat 303 excavator. Our ability to use the extent of our fleet of equipment is limited by the small, tight work areas. For instance, large areas that would typically be graded using graders are not wide enough to make it possible, so GPS dozers are being utilized to fine grade the roadbed. Gradex's fleet of equipment is all relatively new so repairs are usually simple fixes like hydraulic hose repairs, which can be taken care of without a mechanic in some cases.”
Dapp said that the company did not need to purchase or lease equipment
for the job.
“If additional short term equipment is needed,” said Dapp, “we would lean on their existing strong relationships with our major equipment dealers in Indiana —MacAllister, Westside Tractor, Brandeis and RPM. We're pleased to be part of improving the infrastructure of Indiana communities and the patience that the residents of these communities are showing as we complete the work.”
Equipment-wise, E&B is looking at using a mid-size front-end loader to remove the panels from the delivery trucks, and will most likely use a 330 Cat excavator to place them. E&B purchases and rents its Cat equipment from MacAllister Equipment in Indianapolis.