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For a Good Causeway: Addition of Ramps on Louisiana Roadway

Mon April 04, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Lori Lovely


Progress on the project as seen in January 2011. Work on Phase I began in April 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2011.
Progress on the project as seen in January 2011. Work on Phase I began in April 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2011.
Progress on the project as seen in January 2011. Work on Phase I began in April 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2011. Both phases of the causeway project call for new on and off ramps to alleviate congestion and provide a safer route for travelers. Crews setting forms for curtain walls and pile driving on a portion of Phase II.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (La DOTD) is working on the sixth of eight projects to widen Interstate 10 through Jefferson Parish east from Kenner to New Orleans. The sixth stage of the project includes two phases to improve the efficiency of a heavily traveled interchange in Metairie, a city just west of New Orleans. Both phases entail construction of five ramps, noted Rick Skoien, project engineer.

The Interchange serves two major routes: Causeway Boulevard, a key north-south route that leads to the Lake Pontchartain Causeway Bridge, and Veterans Boulevard, the main street in Metairie, which runs parallel to I-10. Congestion occurs where Veterans traffic and Causeway traffic merge together as they enter and exit I-10, leading to delays on I-10 and backups along the ramps.

“By providing dedicated ramps to separate Veteran’s Parkway and Causeway traffic, the new interchange will improve traffic flow and reduce commute times by as much as 15 to 20 minutes a day during rush hour,” Skoien predicted, “While also eliminating the dangerous back-up of the exit ramps onto I-10. Westbound I-10 had to join the Causeway to go north. When we’re finished, traffic won’t have to stop because the ramp becomes a lane.”

Phase I

The $35.6 million contract for Phase I was awarded to James Construction Group LLC of Lafayette, La. Skoien indicates that 80 percent of the funds came from federal sources, with the remaining 20 percent from state sources. Work includes construction of five dedicated ramps at the busy I-10/Causeway Boulevard interchange used by approximately 178,000 drivers each day.

New ramps built as part of the project include an elevated on-ramp from northbound Causeway to I-10 westbound, a ground level on-ramp from northbound Causeway to I-10 eastbound, an off-ramp from I-10 westbound to ground-level North Causeway and Veterans Boulevard, an elevated off-ramp from I-10 westbound to northbound Causeway for drivers traveling to North Metairie and the North Shore and an off-ramp from northbound Causeway to Veterans Boulevard.

The existing ground-level northbound Causeway will be reconstructed and widened to make room for the new ramps. Drainage, sewer, water, phone and electrical lines will be relocated during this portion of the project.

Work began in April 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2011. The new I-10 West to North Causeway ramp, which spans over Veterans was opened to traffic in December 2010. The ground level portion of the new North Causeway to Veterans off-ramp is complete and the exit to Veterans is open to traffic via a temporary road. The bridge portion of this ramp was scheduled for completion in February 2011. Remaining work is scheduled for completion in late March and includes concrete paving under the new bridges, concrete barrier rail, pavement striping, traffic signals and roadway lighting.

Phase II

The $51 million contract for Phase II also was awarded to James Construction Group, with 100 percent federal funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Designed by Burke Kleinpeter and Assoc., the final plans for phase II were prepared quickly because it was included in the ARRA funding. Because the contract was written while Phase I was underway, Skoien explained, it was written with the intention of building both as one project.

“Both phases are building bridges over Veterans,” he elaborated, “so we had to coordinate closures. Having the same contractor makes it more convenient to coordinate.” Work began in November 2009 and is expected to be completed in summer 2012.

The five new dedicated ramps being built on the west side of the I-10/Causeway Boulevard interchange during the project will include: an elevated on-ramp for drivers traveling south on Causeway from the Northshore and North Metairie to I-10 westbound that will tie into the existing ground-level I-10 westbound on-ramp, an elevated flyover on-ramp for drivers traveling south on Causeway from the Northshore and North Metairie to I-10 eastbound, an elevated ramp for drivers traveling south on Causeway from Veterans to I-10 eastbound that will tie into the existing I-10 eastbound on-ramp and a ground-level ramp for drivers traveling south on Causeway from Veterans to I-10 westbound.

The existing ground-level southbound Causeway will be reconstructed and widened to make room for the new ramps, with the existing I-10 westbound off-ramp to southbound Causeway shifted slightly to make room for the new ramps. Drainage, sewer, water, phone and electrical lines will be relocated during this portion of the project.

Current work on the on-ramp from southbound Causeway to I-10 West, which will span over Veterans and Causeway when complete, includes the installation of the steel girders, foundations, concrete caps, curtain walls and bridge decks.

The new ground level on-ramp from Veterans to I-10 West is partially open to traffic. The remaining portion will be completed to Veterans following completion of the overhead steel girders. Foundations are complete for the new I-10 East on ramp from Veterans, which will span over I-10 when complete, and the new South Causeway to I-10 East on ramp, which will span over Causeway and join I-10 east in the median. Crews are working on concrete caps, curtain walls and bridge decks.

Work Summary

Contracts for the two phases of work are A+B contracts, which replace the incentives and decentives used previously.

“Contractors bid on the days and money they think it will take to do the job,” Skoien explained, “where A is money and B is days. It puts a value on a day of $5,000.”

Before work began, the La DOTD had to purchase some right of way north of the projects where the ramps widen over Veterans.

“We needed 15 feet to make room for the bridge,” Skoien explained. Next, a small amount of demolition was necessary where the south ramps will change from bridge tie-ins to two ramps.

Once work got underway, most of it was conducted during the daytime, to minimize traffic congestion. Only single-lane closures were allowed between 9 am and 3 pm, Skoien noted.

“All multi-lane and complete ramp closures [are] done at night. In addition, I-10 lane closures are done only at night and are limited to steel girder crossings for the three ramps that cross I-10. The substructure for the I-10 crossings was constructed under previous I-10 widening projects, he added.

It was important for the La DOTD to maintain all traffic movement, even when they had to reroute traffic through ground level detours through Veterans.

“We used the old I-10 ramp as a temporary road to join up,” Skoien said. “Nevertheless, it remained a challenge to maintain the heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic, as well as provide access to local businesses.”

To ease the situation, crews constructed temporary on/off ramps, a temporary entrance to I-10 westbound just west of the project and incorporated several traffic shifts and temporary detour roads through the work zone.

“There was very limited space for construction operation,” Skoien noted.

Their careful planning paid off when the project received a “work zone excellence award” at the 2011 LA Transportation Conference. The award was based on inspections of the temporary traffic control implemented on the project.

What It Takes to Get the Job Done

Equipment on the job includes the “typical cranes, excavators and paving equipment,” Skoien said. “No significant specialty equipment or methods [were] used.”

But a great deal of material was, including: 16,600 cu. yds. (12,691 cu m) of structural concrete, 20,300 linear ft. (6,187 m) of concrete girders, 5,300 tons (4,808 t) of structural steel (girders make up 90 percent of that), 102,000 linear ft. (31,089 m) of concrete piles, 13,600 tons (12,337 t) of basalt and 14,600 sq. yds. (12,207 sq m) of concrete roadway and paving.

Skoien detailed the paving and roadway work as a “ground level 3-foot sand embankment with an 11-inch stone base, 10-inch concrete [layer] and some asphalt.” Pointing out that two asphalt plants serve nearby New Orleans, he said there was no need for an on-site plant.

There were plenty of workers on site, though. “Manpower varies by operation,” Skoien qualified his estimate, “but averages about 150 workers a day.”

Major subcontractors on the project include: C.E.C — steel girder erection; Barriere Construction — asphalt paving; Subterranean —drainage, sewer and water; Traffic Solutions — temporary signage and barricades, guard rails and permanent signs; Pavement Markings Inc. & Southern Senergy — pavement striping; Walter Barnes & Jack Harper Contractors — electrical and traffic signals; QPL and De-Bar — steel reinforcing. CEG