IDOT Nears Completion on Kingery Expressway Project

Thu May 10, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely



By Lori Lovely

CEG CORRESPONDENT

Work on the Kingery Expressway Reconstruction Project in Chicago is expected to wrap up this summer, approximately nine months later than originally expected and nearly $80 million over budget, due primarily to construction delays and a spike in asphalt costs, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Because the mile-long stretch from Burnham Avenue near Lansing and Calumet Avenue near Hammond received only one bid, another round of bidding was opened in 2006. It saved the city $3 million, but pushed back the completion date.

In addition, “there have been some weather delays,” reported Mike Wiater, Illinois Department of Transportation resident engineer. He acknowledged some contract shut-downs during the winter period, but said they were short: one to one-and-a-half months. When work is finished, the Kingery Express will feature additional lanes to ease congestion and increase safety.

Formerly known as the tri-state highway, the six-lane Kingery Expressway was built in 1950, carrying interstate 80 and 94. It was renamed in 1953 after Robert Kingery, former head of the Dept. of Public Works and former director of the Chicago Regional Planning Association, who was a proponent of the expressway.

“It’s the major connection into Chicago as well as a nationwide connection,” explained Wiater.

As a major commuter route, it sees heavy traffic — approximately 160,000 vehicles a day, 30 percent of which is commercial truck traffic. Projections estimate volume to increase to 192,000 daily vehicles by 2020. Wiater said it was designed for only 60,000 per day.

“There’s a capacity problem that contributes to daily back-ups.” To address that issue, an additional express lane will be added in each direction.

There’s also the issue of the 50-year-old roadway meeting current engineering standards. Wiater indicated that significant work was done on the first section in the 1970s, but other than that, the expressway has undergone surface maintenance only.

Originally designed to last 20 years, the pavement has surpassed that goal by more than 30 years. Although it far outlasted expectations, the pavement on the expressway, bridges and ramps still is deteriorating and in need of replacement.

The new Kingery will incorporate safety improvements with an additional traffic lane in each direction, high-mast tower lighting and improved road conditions and traffic flow. Permanent changeable messages signs are being installed to provide information during and after construction. All-new storm sewers also are being installed.

In addition, in order to add the extra lane, retaining and sound barrier walls were built. Wiater said the additions reduce traffic noise in surrounding commercial and residential areas and explained that all work had been completed within the existing footprint. “Right-of-way locked us in space-wise,” Wiater summarized.

Work Detail

The Kingery Expressway project began in 2003 with a lot of advance work to widen and raise bridges that go over the new system. Mainline Expressway pavement work began in 2005. Twenty-seven contracts were let for a total of $460 million. Eight general contractors had taken part in the total reconstruction and complete realignment of this 5-mi. (8 km) stretch of roadway central to Chicago traffic.

Crews “started from dirt,” as Wiater said, first removing old pavement, which was recycled. The asphalt was reused as capping aggregate in the sub-base grade; concrete was used as fill; and steel beams were cut up and scrapped for recycling.

The new 30-year pavement begins with a 1-ft. (.3 m) thick layer of sub-grade aggregate, topped by a 6-in. (15 cm) layer of stabilized sub-base (asphalt) and a 14.3-in. (36 cm) layer of steel-reinforced concrete pavement featuring epoxy-coated rebar to better withstand Chicago winters and freeze-thaw cycles.

The realignment is a big feature of the project, Wiater said.

“It’s a big interchange, where I-94 and Illinois Route 394 come together. We changed the configuration.”

The reconfigured interchanges helped separate traffic at Torrence Avenue and the Bishop Ford Expressway (Rte. 394). To do so, they constructed a triple-level system using two fly-over structures.

“I-80 is at ground level, Route 394 goes over the top of that and ramps go over the top of that. It’s not the first application in Chicago, but it’s the first in the south suburban area. It should help the flow and safety of traffic and eliminate short merges.”

The new configuration anticipates future traffic volume and wheel loads, Wiater said.

To achieve this monumental task, crews have been working weekends and nights during three seasons of the year.

“The only time we had lane closures was at night,” Wiater explained.

To accommodate heavy traffic during the day, IDOT maintained the same number of lanes, shifting traffic to temporary pavement widenings and relying on nighttime work to minimize the impact. Even so, truck traffic has been heavily impacted by nighttime closures. Most of it has been diverted to the Chicago Skyway/Indiana Toll Road.

Commercial trucks aren’t the only vehicles forced to adapt to alternate routes. The steel girders for the fly-overs came from Industrial Steel in Gary, Ind.

“They went in through the tollway, but had to go past the site, turn around and come back so they’d be on the side of the road where the work was,” Wiater explained.

With westbound lanes still under construction, traffic has been shifted to a reverse-flow pattern.

“It’s an amazing feat,” Wiater said. “It was decided in the design phase. It’s been a real challenge to maintain traffic because the height of the road changed, but we’ve been able to shift lanes without a major impact to traffic. The advance work really helped and the public has adapted well. There haven’t been a lot of problems with accidents.”

Interstate Cooperation

The Illinois Department of Transportation worked closely with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Illinois Tollway Authority on a portion of the project that extends into Indiana.

“The whole corridor is being reconstructed,” Wiater said.

At the Indiana state line, the Kingery becomes the Borman Expressway, a 13-mi. stretch of interstates 80 and 94 that serves as a free alternate route to the Indiana Toll Road/Chicago Skyway. Like its Illinois counterpart, the Kingery, it is a major thoroughfare and sees approximately 160,000 vehicles every day — 40 percent of which is commercial truck traffic. Also like the Kingery, it will receive a $300 million multi-phase makeover to expand capacity and improve safety. The hefty price tag is a bargain compared to the $50 million spent annually in maintenance of the aging roadway.

Plans call for a fourth lane in each direction, collector-distributor lanes to easier egress, lengthened interchange ramps, new bridges, enhanced lighting, improved drainage and reconfigured interchanges. Wick drains had to be installed every 3 ft. (.9 m) for drainage, but there wasn’t enough clearance under the bridge. To overcome the problem, the sub-contractor modified equipment and crews excavated as deep as 50 ft. (15.2 m)

Prep work and lighting were completed in 2004. Retaining walls were rebuilt and sound barrier walls reinstalled from the state line to Calumet Avenue in 2006, while mainline work began. As with the Kingery, three lanes of traffic were kept open — mostly because there are no viable alternate routes, according to INDOT officials.

IDOT coordinated work in this area.

“We built ramps and bridges for the Toll Authority,” Wiater confirmed, “and we’re building a one-mile stretch of 80/94 in Indiana.”

The reason, he revealed, is due to a curve in the road.

“With the geometry and the number of lanes, they couldn’t keep it open and work in the specific geographical limitations of both states.”

All Indiana road work is being funded through Indiana with state and federal support.

Rieth-Riley Construction Co. Inc., out of Goshen, Ind., won the first contract for $55.3 million. From Calumet Avenue to Cline Avenue, all pavement was removed and replaced in 2003 to 2004. A fourth lane and collector-distributor lanes were added in each direction. Loop ramp adjustments were made at the U.S. 41/S.R. 152 and Kennedy Avenue interchanges. Bridges were reconstructed, sound barrier walls reconditioned and two interchanges were reconfigured. Removal of the noise barriers for relocation was the first step in the project and drew some complaints from neighbors.

The joint-venture team of Superior Construction Co. Inc. and E&B Paving Inc. won two design-build contracts. One, for $21.3 million, included modifications to the Grant Street and Broadway interchanges and bridge replacement. Due to the reconfiguration, the old bridges were completely removed and replaced with wider structures that allowed higher clearance.

The other, for $63.8 million, extends from Cline Avenue to Georgia Street. Two interchanges were widened; three have been reconstructed. Three bridges were replaced. All pavement was removed and replaced, with a fourth lane added in each direction. It required 600,000 yds. (548,640 m) of pavement and a lot of digging.

Because they were widening the road, they had to excavate 15 ft. (4.5 m) deep along the right-of-way before backfilling it with lightweight material. Waterlogged soil conditions of area peat bogs complicated the process and required massive excavation, reminiscent of the original work 50 years ago. Crews dug through the winter to keep the project on schedule.

To alleviate poor settlement, 50,000 cu. yds. (41,806 cu m) of lightweight material were used to fill in low areas. On the 4.5-mi. (7.2 m) section of the Borman being reconstructed by Superior/E&B Paving, 300,000 cu. yds. (229,366 cu m) of unusable material was replaced with lightweight fill.

Throughout the project, all of the old pavement was removed, replaced with new subgrade, drainage layers and 15-in. (38 cm) plain concrete pavement, Greg Kicinski, INDOT’s design-build project manager, said. Between replacement of existing concrete and the additional lanes, he expected to lay 1.3 million sq. yds. (1 million sq m) of new concrete. Much of the old material was reclaimed onsite. Concrete pavement was processed for use as fill, while sand subgrade in cut areas was moved to the fill areas.

A Better Borman

The final phase consists of multiple standard-build contracts for pavement replacement, added travel lanes and interchange modifications from east of Georgia Street to east of Clay Street and from the 35th Avenue bridge to the Central Avenue/CSX mainline bridge along I-65.

Work this year includes rebuilding the north side of the I-65 interchange as part of the I-65 Interchange Modification Major Moves project. Walsh Construction won the first of three contracts totaling $187 million. It includes construction of new ramps from northbound I-65 to westbound I-80/94, and eastbound I-80/94 to southbound I-65, as well as rehabilitation of three bridges.

The other two contracts have yet to be let, but work will include the south side of the interchange, scheduled for 2008, when the northwest connectors ramps from I-65 northbound to the Borman Expressway westbound will be reconstructed. Plans for 2009 include replacing existing highway pavement in this area and adding a fourth lane, as well as replacing the Colorado Avenue bridge over the Expressway. The project is expected to last three years, with nighttime lane restrictions.

Kicinski considered the five-year project an “extremely fast-paced job.” Area business owners, residents and Purdue University, however, while recognizing the need for the work, complain about the duration of the project because of its long-lasting negative impact on business due to limited access, delays and temporary road closures. Designed to relieve congestion, they believe work on the Borman has increased it instead.

To keep the project moving at a brisk pace, contracts include incentive clauses for early completion. In addition, Kicinski said design-build saves time because the two processes occur simultaneously, which, incidentally, also saves money. He indicated that using design-build on the first contract allowed INDOT to shave a couple of years off the schedule and save costs by condensing work into two years. Another benefit, he said, is better work because the consultants are continuously working with the contractor, looking for the best way to construct each design.

INDOT hired United Consulting Engineers & Architects from Indianapolis to develop the initial scope of work for the three design-build contracts. Three consulting-contracting teams are executing the plans: American Consulting Engineers and Rieth-Riley Construction Co. for Phase 2; Superior/E&B Paving, RQAW and Butler, Fairman & Seufert Inc. for Phase A; and RQAW and Superior/E&B Paving for Phase 3-B.

Due to additional signage and advance notice of road work, traffic has flowed well and safety has been maintained. CEG