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Expansion of San Diego’s Route 905 Gets Under Way

Fri May 14, 2010 - West Edition
Erik Pisor


Used to prepare future roadway, a Cat motorgrader sits near SR-905.
Used to prepare future roadway, a Cat motorgrader sits near SR-905.
Used to prepare future roadway, a Cat motorgrader sits near SR-905. Equipped with a 10 cu. yd. (7.6 cu m) bucket, a Cat hydraulic excavator rests at the SR-905 job site. A crane equipped with a drilling rig drives pile near SR-905. Two, 120-ton (109 t) cranes work at the site of a future interchange.

Running parallel and just north of the U.S. and Mexico border in San Diego County, SR 905 serves as the primary route to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry (POE), The port, built in 1985, is the largest commercial crossing in the California/Mexico border region.

Since the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1993 the annual volume of trucks at Otay Mesa has increased more than 45 percent. In 1994 the federal government moved all south bound commercial cargo from the crowded San Ysidro port over to Otay Mesa. This continued growth in trade between Baja California and the United States has resulted in significant congestion issues at the Otay Mesa POE and along SR 905.

In a move to reduce this congestion, a freeway expansion and interchange project currently is being addressed along segments of SR 905. Eventually the project will transform SR 905 into a six-lane, 6 mi. (9.6 km) freeway spanning Interstate 805 to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. In addition, a freeway-to-freeway interchange will be provided at SR 125, several SR 905/I-805 freeway connectors will be widened, and an auxiliary lane along northbound I 805 will be expanded.

Phase 1 of the project, which was split into two parts due to escalated costs, is currently under way and involves constructing six travel lanes — three in each direction. The $420.9 million phase also includes the construction of several local interchanges, according to Ismael “Pye” Salazar, project manager of Caltrans District 11.

Equipment used during both portions of Phase 1 construction has included 120-ton (109 t) cranes and drilling rigs; a Cat D9T dozer; a Cat 988 loader, a Cat 16G blade; a Cat 657 scraper; a PC 800 excavator with 10 cu. yd. (7.6 cu m) bucket; and a Cat 5110B excavator with 10 cu. yd. bucket.

Phase 1A of the project, which began in April 2008, has a price tag of $345.5 million and includes the construction of a six-lane freeway between Britannia Boulevard and the Otay Mesa POE.

Phase 1A general contractor, Skanska USA Civil West, will construct a bridge at Britannia Boulevard, a SR 905 interchange located at La Media Road, and several on/off ramps along its 3 mi. (4.8 km) stretch.

According to Salazar, three bridges will be constructed as part of Phase 1A. Each of the structures will be a prestressed, box girder bridge that was cast-in-place. During bridge construction 2,354 cu. yd. (1,800 cu m) of structural concrete will be used for the bridges’ footings, with 8,331 cu. yd. (6,370 cu m) of structural concrete used for deck and other portions of the structures.

Improvements on Sanyo Avenue, Otay Mesa Road, Harvest Road, and Airway Road also are part of Phase 1A, which is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.

Materials used on Phase 1A construction — following completion — will include: 88,025 cu. yd. (67,300 cu m) of aggregate base; 94,172 cu. yd. (72,000 cu m) of aggregate sub base; 876 cu. yd. (670 cu m) of Class 1 concrete; 2.1 million cu. yd. (1.6 million cu m) of bar reinforcing steel; 1.7 million cu. yd. (1.3 million cu m) of roadway excavation; and 32,699 cu. yd. (25,000 cu m) of concrete pavement.

Phase 1B began in July 2009 and has a completion date of December 2012. A part of Phase 1B has $77.4 million to cover the construction of a six-lane freeway starting east of I-805 to Britannia Boulevard. Flatiron West along with Sukut also will build an interchange at Caliente Avenue and is responsible for the construction of the remaining west side ramps.

Comparable to Phase 1A, all three bridges/structures constructed during Phase 1B will be prestressed, box girders that are cast-in-place. During bridge construction 2,125 cu. yd. (1,625 cu m) of structural concrete will be used for the bridges’ footings, and 8,436 cu. yd. (6,458 cu m) of structural concrete will be used for the rest of the structures.

When Phase 1B reaches completion, a significant amount of materials will have been used including: 111,175 cu. yd. (85,000 cu m) of aggregate base; 55,7000 m2 of aggregate sub base; 2.5 million lb. (1.1 million kg) of bar reinforcing steel; 1.3 million cu. yd. (1 million cu m) of roadway excavation; and 38,192 cu. yd. (29,200 cu m) of concrete pavement.

According to Mario Martinez, project manager of Flatiron West, the biggest challenge during Phase 1B construction has been rain. Like the rest of the United States, Southern California is experiencing an “El Niño” year.

“We’re moving 1 million cubic meters of dirt so you have to protect the waterways and you can’t track too much mud,” said Martinez, adding, “they can’t haul in rain.”

Since construction began on Phase 1B, work has been completely shutdown for 14 days due to rain, which also has caused seven shortened working days.

Aside from rain, the other project challenge cited by Salazar was Caltrans acquiring the necessary right of way needed to construct the freeway expansion. For Phase 1 construction, nearly $220 million was spent on right-of-way.

“It’s basically an easy project that takes place mostly on vacant land,” said Salazar.

By the end of 2010, Phase 2 of the project is slated to begin, due to $20.2 million in funding the project recently received via a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.

Widening the westbound SR 905 to northbound I-805 connector and the entrance to I- 805 to two lanes are included in the Phase 2 stage. An auxiliary lane along northbound I-805, between SR 905 and Palm Avenue will be constructed, and the undercrossing at Del Sol Boulevard will be widened.

Phase 2 is slated to reach completion by spring 2012. While Phase 2 of the project was recently fully funded, Phases 3 and 4, along with post phase landscaping work, have yet to received any funding and no anticipated start date has been set., according to Salazar.

Phase 3, which is estimated to cost $87.8 million, will construct a SR 905/SR 125, freeway-to-freeway interchange. A four-lane local access ramp also will be constructed from the new SR 905/SR 125 interchange, east to the intersection with Enrico Fermi Drive.

The $54.3 million final phase will construct interchange ramps at Heritage Road, a location where one of the Phase 1B bridges is currently being built

Following all phases of construction, an estimated $24.4 million will be needed to conduct landscaping of the entire project corridor.