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Frank Borman Expressway Nearing Finish Line in Ind.

Tue June 16, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

The third of three contracts on the Frank Borman Expressway got under way in March. The final project, a two-year, $97 million construction contract, is part of the complete rebuilding of the aging expressway, the major east-west highway between the Indiana/Illinois state line and Interstate 65 that carries Interstates 80 and 94 and U.S. highways 6 and 41. Under Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ Major Moves program, a total of $189 million was budgeted for renovation of the Borman over a five-year period that began in 2007.

Major Moves involves more than 200 new construction and 200 major preservation highway projects. INDOT introduced the final, funded 10-year Major Moves highway plan in May 2006, which will quadruple annual new construction from $213 million in fiscal year 2006 to $874 million in 2015. In addition to state highway projects, one-time payments of between $40 million and $120 million have been allotted for local transportation projects. In 2006 and 2007, all 92 Indiana counties also will receive additional funds for their local transportation projects.

The amount, based on the Motor Vehicle Highway formula, varies by county.

An average of 160,000 vehicles travels the Borman Expressway daily, making it one of the state’s busiest highways. The heavily traveled expressway, constructed in 1949, now requires complete rebuilding along its 13 mi. (21 km) from the Indiana/Illinois state line to just east of the I-65 interchange. Originally named the Tri-State Highway or Indiana 420, it provides a free alternative to the nearby Indiana Toll Road/Chicago Skyway on Interstate 90 — a thoroughfare frequently used by over-the-road trucks. Designated a high-priority corridor, it is eligible for federal funding in association with the extension of Interstate 69 to the Texas/Mexico border.

One, Two, Three

The project includes removal and replacement of all pavement along the 13-mi. stretch of the Borman; longer, wider ramps; the addition of a collector-distributor lane in each direction; bridge rehabilitation and reconditioned (or newly constructed) sound barrier walls.

The first contract, awarded to Walsh Construction Company of Chicago for $46.3 million, included construction of new ramps from northbound I-65 to westbound I-80/94 to southbound I-65; rehabilitation of three bridges in that area and reconstruction of I-65 where it crosses over I-80/94.

The second contract, awarded to the joint venture of Superior Construction Co. Inc. of Gary, Ind., and E&B Paving Inc. of Anderson, Ind., for $46 million, included reconstruction of I-65 over I-80/94; upgrading ramps between the expressway and I-65; rehabilitation of six bridges in the area and reconstruction of the Colorado Street bridge.

The third contract, also awarded to Walsh and scheduled to open to traffic in 2010, includes replacing the existing highway pavement from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Central Avenue; adding a fourth lane; replacing the bridge on Colorado Avenue over the Borman; and adding a travel lane and connector lane to east- and westbound I-80/94. Signage and landscaping will be completed in 2011, according to Joshua Bingham, INDOT LaPorte District Communications Specialist. Between State Road 53 (Broadway) and Central Avenue in Northwest Indiana, I-80/94 will be widened from the current six lanes to 10 lanes.

Construction will focus on the eastbound lanes the first year and the westbound lanes the second year. In 2009 traffic will be shifted north while crews work on the eastbound lane. During the winter of 2009-2010, traffic will be shifted south as work moves to the middle of the roadway. In 2010 work on the westbound lanes will shift all traffic south. Late in the year, all four lanes (each direction) plus the new collector-distributor lanes will open to traffic.

During construction, three lanes in each direction will remain open, with a reduced speed limit of 45 mph.

The third contract is the final phase of the complete rebuilding of the Borman Expressway and is expected to handle traffic volumes for the next 20 years.

When the three-phase project is completed, the Borman Expressway will feature four travel lanes in each direction from the Indiana-Illinois state line to east of the interchange, with a continuous merge lane in both directions up to Central Avenue. The additional lanes are expected to reduce congestion and increase safety on the highway, while allowing easier, safer egress via new collector-distributor lanes, lengthened ramps, improved bridges and enhanced lighting and draining.

Attention to Detail

Materials for this phase include 141,000 cu. yds. (107,802 cu. m.) of B-Borrow, 184,575 cu. yds. (141,117 cu. m.) of structural backfill, 266,981 cu. yds. (204,212 cu. m.) of QC/QA PCCP pavement and 302,928 sq. ft. (28,142 sq. m) of MSE wall. Approximately 315,200 cu. yd. (240,988 cu m) of dirt were excavated.

Equipment on-site, such as pavers, excavators, dozers, rollers, loaders and paving spreaders, is expected to cost $4,000 over the two-year contract, Bingham reported.

Although other phases of the project have periodically necessitated long hours, double shifts and even round-the-clock work seven days a week in order to meet deadlines, Bingham anticipated only minimal shift work on the final phase, most of which “will be concentrated around phase changes.”

Similarly, while other stages of construction were hampered by flooding problems and right-of-way issues shortening bridge lengths, Bingham believes the biggest challenge on remaining work will be traffic.

“Traffic control will be a major challenge. This project encompasses three miles of one of the busiest interstates in the nation. The schedule is equally challenging. This season we construct a portion of the eastbound lanes. Through the winter and next season, we construct the remaining portion of eastbound and all of westbound. Winter weather and a bad spring would make this aggressive schedule even more challenging.”

Despite a cold, windy beginning to spring, INDOT remains hopeful that the expressway will open on time in 2010. CEG

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