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Indiana Steps Up Road, Bridge Preservation

According to INDOT, 6.4 percent of the state’s bridges are in poor condition and it is investing about $270 million each year rehabilitation, maintenance and preservation.

Fri May 22, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Irwin Rapoport

The state of Indiana is being proactive in its efforts to preserve its road (pavement) and bridge infrastructure with an infusion of funding that is providing work for contractors across the state, be they small, medium or large. And it is not only urban areas that are being targeted, but rural areas as well where people and businesses depend on key roads and bridges that are also aging.

Known generically as the Preservation Program, INDOT operates on a rolling four-year capital program where future projects are identified in the timeframe needed to develop them using the latest condition and traffic data available.

This also is a case where investments today will extend the lifespan of these structures and permit the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to save money by immediate intervention so that funds can be used more efficiently to repair and upgrade even more infrastructures in need of attention.

“The engineering was pointing us towards investing as much of our traditional funding as we could into preservation,” said Will Wingfield, an INDOT media spokesman, “and by preservation, we’re talking about maintaining existing roads and bridges such that we can extend the good service life of those assets, realize the best return we could on taxpayer investment, and try to do treatments that will minimize the deterioration of roads and bridges.

“The aging of our system, particularly bridges is a major issue,” he continued. “Many of the interstate bridges were built within the same time period, during the development of the interstate system, and many of them are coming of age and require replacement or major rehabilitation.”

According to INDOT, 6.4 percent of the state’s bridges are in poor condition and it is investing about $270 million each year rehabilitation, maintenance and preservation.

“We’re having a conversation right now in the legislature about what the appropriate level of funding is going forward,” said Wingfield, “recognizing that it would it would be a good thing to lift levels of funding. After a 10 year period, are our assets going to stay at least the same or likely to degrade further? And what level of investment the public expects in terms of performance for our aging system.”

For pavement, INDOT noted that about 9.5 percent is in poor condition and to address it, spends about $400 million each year in maintenance and preservation. The need for preservation also is having an impact on the funding of new infrastructure projects.

“Preservation has always been a major part of what we do, but in the past we also had a significant new construction component to our program,” said Wingfield, “and now with our traditional state and federal revenue sources, we’re investing all of that in preservation in an effort to keep up with the condition of our pavement. National research has shown that for every dollar you invest in preservation, it equates to $6 to $14 that you can defer in the future cost of a complete reconstruction of a facility.

“The cost of keeping a road or bridge in good condition becomes so much more expensive after it’s in poor condition,” he added. “If you can keep an asset in good condition as long as possible, then you can save significant costs and the funding for these costs may not be available. We could not manage to let all of our roads and bridges devolve into poor condition — we try to maintain them so that we get as much life out of them as possible.”

INDOT defines “poor condition” as pavement with a roughness index above 170 and bridges with an overall inspection rating of 4 or below on a 0-9 scale.

The preservation program includes two major initiatives — one for bridges, which was able to secure some additional state funding, and another — the Winter Damage program — which was allocated $40 million to repair the damage caused by the winter of 2013-14.

“It was the snowiest winter on record for Indianapolis and Fort Wayne and one of the snowiest winters in the Chicagoland area [adjacent to the Illinois border],” said Wingfield. “That resulted in a lot of damage to our infrastructure. INDOT has six districts and we had at least two projects in each district via the program where construction crews were patching sections of pavement that were far and away worse than their neighboring sections of pavement. Our goal was to bring them to their former condition and we were doing quite a bit of paving and spot patching.”

The bridge initiative, the Targeted Bridge Preservation Program (TBPP), was given $50 million in funding to focus on preventative maintenance and preservation treatments, with much of the funding targeting rural interstate overpasses and bridges.

“They may not see a lot of traffic,” said Wingfield, “but they are vital for the farm equipment, school buses and people that cross them.”

One major urban project via this funding will be the South Split bridge on the south side of Indianapolis, where the northbound ramp bridges on I-65 leading to I-70 westbound will be rehabilitated.

“It will require the closure of that ramp for about 60 days after the Memorial Day Weekend and the Indianapolis 500 to rehabilitate and install new decks on two of those ramp bridges,” said Wingfield. “It will have a significant impact on traffic flow.”

Coordination with municipalities and counties is a given, but because the preservation program is focusing on existing infrastructure, coordination with cities and utilities was minor.

“We do coordinate in large urban areas with metropolitan planning organizations that keep track of and have a listing of all the major transportation projects that are planned in individual urban areas,” said Wingfield, “so even though a lot of this is state funds, we make sure that we coordinate with the local communities and their own initiatives.”

The extended lifespan of the roads and bridges depends upon the types of treatment that is applied. On the pavement side, INDOT’s basic level of treatment is crack and chip sealing, which in both cases seal tiny cracks in the roads so that water cannot leak down and form potholes.

“These treatments need to be redone, typically, every five years,” said Wingfield.

On the bridge side, there are three types of projects: an overlay of an existing concrete deck; removal of the deck and railing and their replacement; and removal and replacement of the entire superstructure of the bridge, which would include the beams and deck.

“In the case of overlay, it will extend the bridge’s life for 15 to 20 years,” said Wingfield. “A new deck or superstructure would extend the life of that crossing for another 25 years roughly.”

The preservation work has not discovered any flaws in past road and bridge design.

“There were no real errors or flaws,” said Wingfield, “but that being said, we do have a joint-research program with Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, to explore all aspects of our transportation materials and processes in an effort to continuously improve upon them. For example, we’ve been looking at concrete that is wet and cured internally by pre-wetting the aggregate such that there is less cracking and therefore the concrete on the bridge lasts longer because it is impermeable.”

In terms of construction techniques, research is ongoing within INDOT to improve the cleaning of under-drains to wick water away from the pavement to prevent potholes and on more effective ways to seal paving joints.

“When we start paving again right next to a section that was recently completed,” said Wingfield, “how can we seal it so that water cannot enter into that location?”

Small, medium and large general contractors have all been able to secure contracts with the preservation programs.

“The benefits of this preservation work, and we saw this when we did a lot of preservation work projects under the federal Recovery Act,” said Wingfield, “was that by working on existing road and bridges and doing preventative maintenance-type projects, that they are typically smaller in size and that gives contractors of all sizes more of an opportunity to compete. That gets more companies involved in pursuing those projects — typically more local contractors. It generally has a better impact upon the economy and it results in better prices for INDOT when there is more competition.”

INDOT holds quarterly meetings with the Indiana Construction Association, which is the state chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, where issues such as work zone safety are discussed and INDOT officials meet with individual contractors to review concrete and asphalt technology, best practices and other common issues.

“These are good opportunities to review our specifications and share technical information,” said Wingfield, “and in addition, with Purdue, we also hold an annual conference that is well attended by INDOT and local transportation officials to share those best practices in seminars and presentations. The consulting community is very engaged in that as well.”

Like other state DOTs, INDOT has major closure provisions in all of its contracts with general contractors.

“In all of contracts we have liquidated damages where our construction professionals estimate how long a road or bridge needs to be closed,” said Wingfield. “If the contractors exceed that time, then they are liable for damages. If contractors find a better way to do something that saves money, they can make those proposals to us and if we approve them, then the contractor gets to split the savings with us. Incentives are built into our contracts and have proven to be beneficial for all concerned.”

INDOT has been employing the design-build form of contracting for many of the TBPP projects.

“So instead of doing plans, specifications and estimates,” said Wingfield, “we can give the contractor performance-based requirements for our bridges and it involves the contractors in the design process. This has the design and construction occurring at the same, so while you are building that first section, you may be designing the second. This really speeds up the design and construction — often by a year.”

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