Getting around Midtown Atlanta has been a little more circuitous since Feb. 9.
Work by C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc. to replace the 14th Street bridge over the I-75/85 connector required the closure of Techwood Avenue between 16th and 10th streets until 2009 and the re-routing of traffic from the I-85 southbound 10th and 14th streets exit ramps to the 10th and 14th streets ramp. It also required the re-routing of traffic from the I-75 southbound exit 250 to the 10th and 14th streets ramp.
The $88.5 million project also will close the 14th Street bridge during its reconstruction, but the improvements when the project is completed in 2010, the Georgia Department of Transportation said, will be worth the wait and the detours.
Matthews, the low bidder on the project, was awarded the contract in May 2007.
“The purpose behind this is to relieve the traffic coming northbound to the 17th Street bridge, and for people coming southbound to 14th Street to be able to go off directly to 10th Street,” Darrell Williams, GDOT assistant area engineer, said. “You couldn’t exit to 10th, but now traffic will be able to get off I-75 southbound on a ramp that will kick it up to 10th Street.”
In addition to two new exit ramps from the interstate, the project will include pedestrian safety improvements on the bridge and on 14th Street, specifically 15-ft.-wide (4.6 m) sidewalks on the bridge and on its approaches. A closed-circuit television and detection system also will be installed.
The job also requires raising the bridge significantly, Williams said.
“Basically, we’ll be shifting the southbound exit 30 feet toward the east, and we’ll be raising the 14th Street bridge up approximately 14 feet from the level where it currently is,” he said.
The high-traffic area — Georgia Tech’s basketball arena, Alexander Memorial Coliseum, is right up the road on Techwood at the campus’ northwest edge — has become a congested bottleneck, Williams said. The combined I-75 and I-85 corridor, dubbed the connector, is crossed by bridges at 17th and 14th streets, and its roadbed is more than 30 ft. (9 m) below surface street level.
That section of interstate near the split of I-75 and I-84 on the connector’s north end is scheduled for resurfacing as a part of this project in summer 2008.
“This alleviates traffic on Williams Street so that people won’t get off on 14th to get to 10th, and it’ll relieve some of the traffic from Atlantic Station there at the 17th Street bridge,” Williams said. “Traffic used to have to get off on Williams Street and take it down to West Peachtree to Spring Street to get back over to 17th to Atlantic Station.”
Matthews Senior Vice President Peter Feininger said the closures in the heart of the city will be as much a challenge to construction as it will to through traffic.
“One of the biggest challenges to construction in this project is having to close the exit ramp from I-75 southbound that goes to 14th and Techwood,” Feininger said. “We’ll have to close that for about 15 months, and that’s really going to have a big impact. Shortly after we do that we’ll close the 14th Street bridge completely for 70 days for construction.”
Work on utility relocation has been ongoing since June. Subcontractor W.L. Hailey and Company Inc. of Nashville and Atlanta is in the final stages of work that includes tunneling beneath the city’s biggest artery.
“Currently there’s a 36-inch water main on the 14th Street bridge that they want off the bridge that’s to go under the interstate in a tunnel,” Hailey Project Manager Bill Harworth said. “The tunnel is 7 feet in diameter and we’ve also got 16 4-inch conduits that run through it which accommodate the fiber optic networks that were once attached to the bridge. It’s got about 14.5 feet of cover, but where our shafts are is really down about 50 feet deep since the interstate is cut down in the landscape where the streets are at a much higher elevation.”
A 90-ton and two 60-ton Terex hydraulic cranes leased from Craneworks in Birmingham, Ala., and Moody Crane in Atlanta were the workhorses on the project, Harworth said. A Hitachi 450 excavator leased through Metrac of Atlanta also was on-site, as were John Deere off-road trucks to aid in building box culverts.
Williams said GDOT expects work on the 14th Street bridge to begin around March, and when that happens, Feininger said, Matthews plans to bring its Link-Belt LS-218 crane and a whole fleet of Cats to take on the work.
“We’re in the early stages of the project,” Feininger said. “We’re doing a lot of utility relocation related to the building of the tunnel under the interstate and we’ve started some of the preliminary grading and a little bit of the paving.”
Feininger said Matthews will move approximately 112,000 cu. yd. (85,630 cu m) and 28,000 cu. yd. (21,400 cu m) of rock from the site.
Matthews will use at least 10 Caterpillars: a 318 excavator, a 420 backhoe, a 330 excavator, a 321 excavator, a D-4 and a D-6N bulldozer, a 12-H grader, a 740 articulated truck, a 226B skid steer loader and an IT38G wheel loader. A Komatsu PC400 excavator also will be used.
In actuality, he added, the project requires two new bridges, the second being the off-ramp from I-75 to 17th Street. He said Matthews owns its own equipment and handles its own maintenance, purchasing all its Caterpillar equipment from Yancey Bros. in Atlanta.
“We handle all our maintenance internally, and we turn over our equipment every three years, so most of ours is a very up-to-date fleet,” Feininger said.
And though the equipment list is long, it only represents the pieces at one of the projects Matthews is tackling in the Metro area.
“This is probably one of the bigger ones, but we’re doing several major interchange reconstructions in Atlanta right now,” Feininger said. “The I-85/Georgia 316 project is a total reconstruction, and also the Memorial Drive/I-285 interchange reconstruction and the Lawrenceville Highway/I-285 reconstruction. We’re one of the largest, if not the largest contractor in Atlanta, so we’re fine with the size of it.”
Matthews is subcontracting the permanently anchored walls, the automated traffic management and signaling and the signage involved in the project. F&W Construction of Ozark, Ala., will handle the walls; Brooks, Berry & Haynie of Atlanta will handle traffic management and signals; and Sheets Construction of McDonough, Ga., will handle the signage.
Harworth of the subcontractor Hailey’s allows that once the closures and detours begin the temporary congestion caused by work to alleviate the congestion in the area will cause drivers some problems.
He said contractors sympathize because they’re among the drivers trying to navigate Midtown. When the 14th Street bridge closes northbound traffic will be detoured to the 10th Street bridge and southbound traffic will be routed to the 17th Street bridge.
“Traffic’s not really an issue for us,” he said. “It’s more for Matthews. When they’re actually doing the road work traffic will be an issue, but for us it’s a matter of getting in and out of our work areas. The areas themselves are basically outside the existing roadways, but we have to utilize the roadways to get to the spot where we want to work.
“When the bridge gets shut down, that’s when it’ll really start hoppin’.”