First of Three US 31 Projects Moves Forward

Fri June 22, 2012 - Midwest Edition
Jennifer Rupp


A bridge crew for Primco Inc. organizes h-piling for the Center Road Bridge.
A bridge crew for Primco Inc. organizes h-piling for the Center Road Bridge.
A bridge crew for Primco Inc. organizes h-piling for the Center Road Bridge. Subcontractor Fox Contractors runs its fleet in and out of the offsite borrow pit, hauling borrow to project embankments. Subcontractor Poindexter Excavating works on removing peat from the limits of the US 31 right of way. Depths reaching 38 ft. (11.6 m) of peat were encountered, where extensive de-watering had to be performed.

US 31 is undergoing three major reconstruction projects from Indianapolis to the Michigan state line. These three targeted areas are highly congested, which often leads to an increase in accidents. The first of the three projects is centered around the city of Kokomo in Howard County.

The US 31 Kokomo project is a new four-lane divided limited-access rural freeway that encircles Kokomo, in Howard County, to the east. The 13-mi. (20.9 km) project begins just south of the Tipton/Howard County line and ends about one mile north of the US 31/US 35 intersection. The project also involves building six new interchanges.

The current US 31 facility represents a bypass of the original US 31 route that once passed through downtown Kokomo until 1952. Through the project area, the existing US 31 is a four-lane divided roadway that includes 15 signalized intersections, three bridges and three at-grade railroad crossings. There are approximately 140 minor cross-street and private property access points to US 31.

With the high number of intersections through the city, traffic delays and vehicular accidents occurred often. The main purposes of the Kokomo project are to improve the level of safety for motorists and to reduce traffic congestion/travel time. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) also aims to provide reliable and efficient movement of commerce and regional travel.

“The estimated cost at the time of Environmental Studies was $354 million. Our actual cost should approximate $152.5 million,” said Harry Maginity, Public Information Director for INDOT Greenfield District. Officials estimate that a million dollar savings was achieved through “value engineering” — designers, contractors and state construction people seeing alternate ways to build that result in saving money. Also, INDOT allowed the bidding contractor to submit prices for asphalt or concrete pavements. With the economy at low ebb, the bidding was highly competitive.

The Kokomo bypass will include 36 bridges throughout its 11 contracts. These contracts have been awarded to 6 prime contractors; the first of which is HIS Constructors of Indianapolis. HIS won the bid in the amount of $2.5 million for the CR 200 South bridge over US 31 that kicked off the project in September 2008. The other primes include Walsh Construction, Primco Inc., Crider & Crider, RL McCoy and CRI Construction Inc.

The 11th contract, awarded to CRI, is for wetlands mitigation. In addition to improving the wetlands near the project, INDOT “traded-out” additional work within Howard County. The extra work involved the removal of a 9-ft. high logjam in nearby Wildcat Creek.

While it’s no surprise to move 2,159,750 cu. yds. (1,651,247 cu m) of earth on a project, crews were shocked at the amount of peat that was excavated — 279,400 cu. yds. (213,617 cu m). All this excavation led to 3,497,620 cu. yds. (2,674,122 cu m) of fill hauled in.

“Right now, we are dealing with several peat bogs; excavating sizeable expanses averaging 25-feet deep — with depths of 38 feet in some areas — and stabilizing with B borrow. The challenge here is getting enough quality borrow on a timely basis,” explained Maginity. “If the peat had been a higher quality, we could have funded the project with it.”

In addition to the prime contractors, approximately 50 subcontractors are working on the Kokomo project. One such sub is Scherzinger Drilling Inc., who used a specialty Mobile Drill rig to core holes in the limestone. The Mobile Drill allowed them to achieve the required minimum tip elevation for bridge pilings. At one time, Mobile Drill was manufactured in Indianapolis before it was purchased and moved by a Canadian manufacture of drill rigs.

At the soon-to-be-started North Terminus contract site, intelligent compaction specifications are going to be used for earthwork compaction. This work will require the employment of IC Rollers.

More information about the US 31 Kokomo project, visit www.in.gov/indot/2371.htm.