Right on schedule, workers are putting the final touches on a Columbus, Ohio, project that sat on a shelf untouched for 10 years.
The Alum Creek Drive improvement project started in 2012 and involved expanding the two lane highway between Williams Road and State Route 104 to five lanes, as well as adding curbs, a storm system, gutters, drainage facilities, multi-use trails for pedestrians and bicyclists, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps, improved mast-arm signals, street lighting and landscaping.
The project was long overdue, said Jim Miller, area engineer of the city of Columbus.
“That roadway not only had a lot of daily traffic, but lots of commercial traffic,” he said. “Lots and lots of shipping and trucks. Just major equipment up and down that road every day. The current ADT is about 30,000 cars a day, and 60 percent of those are commercial vehicles. Mostly semis.”
The $18 million project was designed 12 years ago, but sat unfunded until 2012 when money became available from the Federal Transportation Fund.
Local contractor George J. Igel & Co., Inc. won the bid.
The project came with plenty of challenges, not the least of which was maintaining traffic during construction. Local neighborhood traffic had to be accommodated and utilities moved.
“The schedule, even though it was multi-year, was hampered with utility relocation issues,” Miller said.
The 10 years that the plans languished also created some issues.
“When you design a project 10 years ago, a lot of things change that may or may not have been incorporated on the design plans,” said Miller. “Being able to weed through those things was a challenge. People had built businesses and businesses had been torn down. We would find things buried underground, like gas tanks. Property owners had changed so it was a challenge tracking down who to call. Because the plans were 10 years old they did go through a revision, but a lot of things with the specs fell through the cracks. But it was nothing major.”
The project called for the standard roadwork equipment such as backhoes, pavers, graders and rollers, plus soil stabilization equipment.
Crews cut the road down to the proposed grade and installed the storm sewer, lowering the roadway substantially.
“When we cut it down, we went in with the stabilization machine and mixed cement with soil and water and let it cure,” Miller said. “That gave it a really hard stable surface to build the road on. We have a lot of clay here in Ohio and that cement stiffens right up when it hardens.
“You’ve got a water truck, big soil stabilization machine. It looks like a large Zamboni except it has big rototiller blades mixing the soil. There was also a sheep’s foot roller and smooth drum roller. We had a lot of equipment. We installed new overhead powerlines and some underground. On any given day, we had probably 30 to 50 people out there.”
The project also called for a new 30-in. (76 cm) waterline. The city gave bidders three choices of acceptable materials: ductile iron, steel or precast concrete. Typically, contractors opt for ductile iron, Miller said. But on this project Igel proposed precast concrete.
“You don’t see too much of that but depending on the availability and prices you do see it occasionally,” Miller said.
Crews also constructed a 10-ft. (3 m) wide asphalt path on both sides of the road to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists, as well as more than 100 ADA compliant ramps and 15 bus stops for the city of Columbus Public Transportation.
With this project complete, the city of Columbus is now looking at designing phase two, expected to get under way in 2016.
“It’s almost identical in scope,” Miller said. “It is a little shorter, but it’s two lanes widened to five and it’s all going to connect.”
If they’re lucky phase two will go just as well as the first.
“We did have our share of problems,” he said. “But a problem for us is an opportunity. This was a humongous project that sat on a shelf for 10 years. Normally, they add in a 10-percent contingency. But with this project, they gave us a 5-percent contingency — just under $900,000. We finished with $200,000 to $300,000 below budget, and we finished on schedule — actually three days ahead. I had a great staff with me, too. They were wonderful.”
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