End in Sight for INDOT’s Accelerate 465

Tue April 22, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely



One more year.

Motorists slogging through construction of I-465 at the 38th Street interchange are counting down until its completion next year — roughly the same time as motorists who use the Crawfordsville Road and Rockville Road interchanges and the 21st Street bridge south of 38th Street will be facing the start of work on their segments of the Accelerate 465 project.

Accelerate 465 is part of Gov. Mitch Daniels’s Major Moves campaign to improve Indiana’s interstates. This portion of I-465, originally completed in 1962, featured two lanes in each direction; a third travel lane was added in the median in 1967. It’s the last section of I-465 to see a complete overhaul.

“The infrastructure needs to be improved,” Will Wingfield, spokesman of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), said. “It’s falling apart.”

In fact, pavement life is one of three pressing issues affecting the corridor, the other two being traffic volume and safety.

As Wingfield pointed out, the pavement was designed with a 55 mph speed limit; although that’s the posted speed limit, studies have shown that few adhere to it.

In addition, the number of vehicles using the road is increasing steadily. A 2006 Average Daily Traffic report estimated existing traffic volume at 103,000 vehicles per day and projected that number to jump 40 percent over 20 years. INDOT expects an additional through lane and auxiliary lane will handle the additional traffic flow.

The interchange configuration also needs updating. The old design was standard, but is now outdated. Each cloverleaf in the corridor will be modified to a partial cloverleaf with flyover ramps to prevent safety problems and increase capacity, Wingfield said.

The corridor does not meet current design standards for shoulder widths, interchange ramp acceleration, deceleration and taper lengths, clear zone and barrier requirements and vertical curves. The completed roadway will be an urban interstate with 12-ft. (3.6 m) lanes, 14-ft. (4.2 m) inside shoulders, 10-ft. (3 m) outside shoulders and a 30-ft. (9.1 m) paved median with a concrete barrier.

The Cost of Perfection

The overall corridor cost (including interchanges from south to north: I-70, Airport Expressway, U.S. 40/Washington Street, U.S. 36/Rockville Road, 10th Street, I-74/U.S. 136/Crawfordsville Road and 38th Street) between now and 2013 rings in at $550 million.

The hefty price tag is the better economical option in the long run, Wingfield explained, because “we’d spend more to patch and repair than to rebuild.”

The budget for the 38th Street interchange including all mainline pavement between I-65 and I-74 — one of four contracts this summer — is $75 million.

According to Wingfield, the budget included the Accelerate 465 mainline and interchange work between I-74 and I-65. This $74.8 million Major Moves contract is INDOT’s largest this year in the Indianapolis metro area. In late April and early May, INDOT plans to shift both directions of I-465 to the east half of the interstate. Gaps in the center median wall will allow ramps to remain open as contractors widen and rebuild the existing southbound lanes.

However, INDOT plans to close and rebuild the 56th Street ramp to I-465 southbound for one month this summer. Work on the second half of the 38th Street bridge continued through the winter and restrictions at the interchange should begin easing up later this summer. Most road work should wrap up by the end of 2008, although noise barriers and other work off the roadway will likely continue into 2009.

Additionally, INDOT will replace 34th and 46th Street bridges over I-465. Contractors began replacing the West 34th Street bridge over I-465 in January, with work anticipated to wrap up in July.

Construction is currently focusing on building concrete piers, retaining walls and pedestals to support the new bridge beams. When completed, the bridge will accommodate planned widening of the interstate below as part of Accelerate 465. On the bridge, new shoulders and sidewalks along each side of 34th Street will safely accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Once the weather warms up to allow such work, contractors also will put the finishing touches on the 46th Street bridge, including a final layer of surface asphalt and permanent pavement markings. Both the 34th and 46th Street bridges are being rebuilt under a $10.6 million Major Moves contract.

Lastly, INDOT will replace 21st Street bridge over I-465. INDOT will work on the West 21st Street bridge in the latter half of this year as part of a $6.5 million Major Moves contract. Demolition of the existing structure is slated to begin after similar work wraps up at the 34th Street bridge. It is anticipated that it will take contractors approximately five months to open the new bridge to traffic. The new 21st Street bridge will be similar in design to the 34th and 46th Street bridges currently under construction. Night and weekend work may restrict I-465 nearby during demolition, concrete pours and bridge beam installation.

INDOT is accepting bids in April to reconstruct and upgrade the I-465 interchange at U.S. 36/Rockville Road — the primary artery to the busy and growing suburb of Avon. This contract will convert the existing cloverleaf interchange with four loop ramps to a partial cloverleaf with one loop ramp. The design will improve safety by eliminating the weaving and merging of accelerating and decelerating traffic at the bottom of the loop ramps.

“The design will improve traffic flow,” Wingfield summarized.

INDOT will rebuild Rockville Road at the interchange in three phases, widening the road to an average of three lanes in each direction. New exit ramps will be built for increased traffic capacity, with a number of left and right turn lanes. This project is focused on rebuilding the interchange. Night and weekend restrictions on I-465 will minimize the impact to traffic below. Before road work can begin, however, utility companies must move conflicting lines. Once utilities have been cleared, road construction is anticipated to last about 12 months. To accommodate traffic seeking alternate routes around construction, INDOT also will improve 10 intersections on west side city streets such as Girls School Road, Rockville Road and Crawfordsville Road .

Several intersections on city streets were improved to accommodate traffic on alternate routes and some advanced construction for the 38th Street segment was begun in 2007, but the bulk of the work is slated to occur during the 2008-2012 construction seasons. Preliminary engineering, early utility coordination, right-of-way engineering and the public involvement process have already taken place. In addition to the required hearings, an aggressive public outreach program was launched on the front end of design.

“We had to buy right-of-way for the project,” Wingfield revealed. “Our goal with acquisition was to get it done early.”

Wingfield said doing it early would make it easier to deal with the people being uprooted.

The finished project will contain a minimum 216-ft. (65.8 m) right-of-way. The existing right-of-way is typically 200 ft. (61 m), but expands to 260 ft. (79 m) in certain areas. Right-of-way needs may expand in areas of cut and fill and may be larger at interchange areas.

Wingfield calls this part of the project a “big thing. It’s the biggest job in Indy metro this year. It will be the standard bearer for big road projects.”

That’s a lofty goal for a city that recently endured a speedy but disruptive reconstruction project on the east side into the downtown business district.

“The key difference between this project and Super 70,” Wingfield said, “is the total pavement replacement: full removal and replacement and widening. We’re widening the footprint — adding a through-lane and an auxiliary lane. It’s a dramatic widening — disturbing boundaries, replacing crossovers, ramps, etc. The long-term impact is far greater.”

Punching the Time Clock

The general contractor for this contract is Milestone.

“They’ve done a great job keeping on schedule,” Wingfield said.

To do so, they did a lot of winter work, including paving in December. But even before the really cold temperatures hit, they got enough grading done that Indianapolis’s recent extremely wet weather didn’t unduly slow road work.

“It hindered work a bit, but they got enough done before winter, it didn’t hurt us.”

The weather did affect work in another way. Thanks to years of freeze-thaw cycles, “the entire corridor has a lot of pot holes: more than in other interstates,” Wingfield stated. “It confirms our notion that the underlying layers require redoing — that’s a pat on the back for the engineers, I guess. But it makes work difficult.”

Correcting the damage done by time and Mother Nature will require 2,200 fully loaded dump trucks of concrete.

“That includes everything in the area of the interchange: MSC, piers, bridge, ramps,” Wingfield said.

The remainder of the mainline is built of stone matrix asphalt, which also is used in other sections of 465.

Some of that concrete is being dressed up in architectural design elements — something new at INDOT. Motorists can expect to see patterns and stamped concrete in the bridge piers and retaining walls, as well as decorative metal railings reflecting architectural design elements.

“We’re striving for a consistent look throughout the project for 11 miles between 56th Street and I-70,” Wingfield elaborated.

To please the ear as much as the eye, a noise barrier similar to the ones on I-65 and the east side is being erected. Crews are currently clearing trees and old fence and widening the road in preparation. The patterned, absorptive walls will be installed only on the expanded footprint.

“There’s a tight criteria,” Wingfield said.

Even so, it’s an expensive aspect, costing around $20,000 to $30,000 per household.

Scheduling along the corridor has presented challenges, some unique to Indianapolis. All restrictions are limited to off-peak hours, with bridgework done entirely at night.

“We set beams between midnight and 5 a.m. We’ll set beams on the north half of the bridge while traffic is using the south half of the bridge. We hope to lift restrictions this year.”

Expect to see a lot of traffic shifts between I-65 and I-74 in April and May.

“We’ll shift all traffic to the east half of the northbound lanes for the duration of the season. Ramps will remain open on the west half of I-465.”

But everything changes during May in Indianapolis. Policy states that, as a matter of practice, INDOT asks contractors to scale back during holiday weekends and race events. Citing this policy, Wingfield noted that they will be “skipping over I-74 to avoid the centennial of the [Indianapolis 500] race.”

Challenging Work

Scheduling and weather aren’t the only obstacles INDOT has faced so far. Some of the first challenges were encountered long before work began. Wingfield said the current traffic plan is a modification of the original contract, altered to cut down on costs and improve safety. With an urban job of this magnitude, it’s little surprise that coordinating utilities, especially at interchanges, was a logistical nightmare. Wingfield takes some comfort in the knowledge that, because it’s an interstate job, utilities are reimbursable.

One impediment that did come as a surprise was a root bog (peat) discovered while putting in MSC retaining wall near 38th Street. Because it was not stable enough to support a retaining wall, approximately 300 cu. yd. (229 cu m) had to be removed and replaced.

Water has been an issue elsewhere along the corridor. Wingfield mentions some drainage at Eagle Creek Reservoir and said crews are digging retention ponds to avoid overwhelming the city system within the interchanges and in surrounding areas (near 34th Street and at 38th Street south). INDOT is paying particular attention to storm water management along the corridor to meet new federal standards.

Another federal agency INDOT must be in compliance with is the FAA.

“Our cranes have to seek FAA permits as we proceed south down 465, due to proximity to the airport,” Wingfield explained.

The west side has experienced tremendous growth in recent years: there are seven interchanges in 8 mi. of interstate. Compounding the problem of traffic flow, the interchanges are closely spaced.

“There’s one approximately every 1 to 2 miles,” Wingfield observed. However, he noted an upcoming change. Once the new terminal is completed, the airport interchange will change. Access will be off I-70 instead of 465 and Airport Expressway will be renamed Sam Jones Expressway. CEG