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KDOT Takes on Focus435 Work in Kansas City

Mon July 14, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson

Traffic congestion and safety in a rapidly growing section of Kansas City spurred a $127 million construction project that will add additional lanes, a new interchange, 12 new bridges, rehabilitation of four existing bridges and construction of noise walls.

Focus435, a collaborative effort between the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the city of Overland Park, Kan., is a four-year project that will include:

• A new interchange at I-435 and Antioch;

• Expanding I-435 between Metcalf and U.S. 69 from six to eight lanes;

• A southbound to eastbound fly-over ramp to replace the existing loop ramp in the southwest quadrant of the I-435/U.S. 69 interchange;

• A southbound to eastbound fly-over ramp to replace the existing loop ramp in the southwest quadrant of the I-435/U.S. 69 interchange;

• Improvements to the U.S. 69/I-435 interchange;

• Improvements to the U.S. 69/103rd Street interchange; and

• Construction of noise walls at various locations along I-435 and U.S. 69.

Focus435 is a project made possible through the state’s System Enhancement Program. The $161 million in SEP funding available to the Focus435 project is earmarked for construction of initial improvements to the I-435 and U.S. 69 corridors, as well as planning and right-of-way preservation for future improvements.

In just two years, from 2004 to 2006, traffic on I-435 between Antioch and U.S. 69 increased from 129,000 vehicles each day to 142,000 vehicles each day, with 200,000 vehicles expected by 2027. More than 88,000 vehicles travel daily through the U.S. 69 corridor, which is just north of I-435, with an increase to almost 150,000 vehicles each day by 2027, spurring the need for some changes.

These freeway corridors and the surrounding interchanges currently operate beyond the capacity they were designed for, resulting in congestion, accidents, poor peak-hour levels of service and difficulty changing lanes. Focus435 also will address deficiencies in current roadway standards, such as narrow medians or short median barriers.

The project also will make this stretch of highway, which experiences more accidents than similar roadways in the state, safer by improving roadway deficiencies, according to KDOT.

Portions of the pavement on these heavily traveled corridors are rapidly deteriorating. Along U.S. 69, the median is too narrow by today’s standards and for the higher traffic volumes. The Median barrier along I-435, which prevents crossover accidents, needs to be improved with a taller barrier to reduce oncoming headlight glare. The project includes 65,279 linear ft. (19,900 m), or 12 mi. (19 km), of concrete safety barrier, according to Kimberly Qualls, public affairs manager of District One of the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The current roadway simply does not have enough lanes to handle the traffic load. An additional two lanes will ease congestion, improve traffic flow and create lane continuity with the existing eight-lane section on I-435 east of Metcalf Avenue, according to KDOT. At this time, I-435 has six lanes west of Metcalf, but eight lanes east of Metcalf. For travelers heading west on I-435, this reduction in the number of lanes creates congestion and safety problems. I-435 will initially be expanded to eight lanes from Metcalf to U.S. 69 and eventually to I-35. Focus435 includes 15 lane mi. (24 km) of new pavement, Qualls said.

Since this project will provide enhanced access to and from this growing office and commercial area, the economic development needs of the entire region will be served.

Work on the project initially began during the fall of 2005 and, by the end of 2006, significant progress was seen, including:

• Completion of improvements at the I-435 and Metcalf interchange to provide additional capacity for those entering and exiting the highway.

• I-435 between Metcalf and Antioch was improved to offer additional capacity and provide better access to both of those major city streets.

• The east side of the I-435 and Antioch interchange was opened, providing access to eastbound I-435 and from westbound I-435. Work on the western portion of the interchange was under way and was scheduled to be complete in 2008.

• Noise walls were completed between Metcalf and Antioch.

• Antioch Road now has two lanes open in each direction, with new bridges over Indian Creek and I-435.

Then, by the end of the 2007 construction season, significant improvements to the interchange at U.S. 69 and 103rd Street were seen. The loop ramps from 103rd to southbound U.S. 69, and from northbound U.S. 69 to 103rd, were closed from early spring through the latter part of 2007 for the reconstruction. Crews worked mostly on the southbound lane of U.S. 69, adding ramps that will connect with the new two-lane flyover bridge to eastbound I-435.

Low Cracking High Performance Concrete (LCHP) was used in three bridge decks. KDOT is using LCHP on select projects throughout the state. LCHP concrete is an optimized mix that is placed at controlled temperatures with extended curing periods. The primary goal is to reduce or eliminate the amount of cracking that occurs in the bridge decks, Qualls said.

The 12 new bridges included in the Focus435 project required 19,963 cu. yd. (15,260 cu m) of concrete, 2,088 tons (1,894 t) of reinforcing steel and 4,518 tons (4,100 t) of structural steel.

Also, 103rd Street between Goddard and Mastin was reduced to one lane in each direction for most of the 2007 construction season to allow crews to reconstruct 103rd street, including a new bridge over U.S. 69. All work at that interchange is scheduled to be completed in mid-2008. Work includes improved exit and entrance ramps, providing greater safety.

Also in 2007, the noise wall on the west side of U.S. 69 between 95th Street and 103rd Street was largely completed. Noise wall construction continued on the east side of U.S. 69 and along I-435 between Indian Creek and Antioch.

Crews encountered some subsurface water issues where the noise wall on the east side of U.S. 69 was to be constructed. The use of Rammed Aggregate Piers helped stabilize the foundation. Using Rammed Aggregate Piers is a relatively new technique for KDOT, but it is not new to the industry. The noise walls impacted intermediate completion dates, but not the final calendar completion date of the overall project, Qualls said. Approximately 318,800 sq. ft. (29,600 sq m) of Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) retaining walls were constructed.

Aggregate piers, known as Vibro Piers by Hayward Baker, of Odenton, Md., the subcontractor that performed this portion of the work, are typically installed to intermediate depths of 5 to 20 ft. (1.5 to 6 m) for the support of new loads. Typical Vibro Pier construction begins with pre-drilling a full-depth hole with a diameter that is equal to the final pier design diameter. Aggregate is then placed in the hole and compacted by lifts with repetitive ramming with a specially-designed vibrator.

Vibro Piers are effective in reinforcing the surrounding soil and reinforcing the ground to increase bearing capacity, reduce settlement, increase global stability and decrease seismic deformations. Vibro Pier technology uses a powerful down-hole vibrator to compact select aggregate in lifts. The vibratory energy and ramming action of the vibrator causes the dense aggregate to interlock and form a stiff pier that engages the surrounding soil, providing reinforcement and increased shear resistance.

On I-435, there is a new bridge over Indian Creek and additional lanes were constructed between Antioch and U.S. 69. Work included a noise wall on the north side of I-435, and improvements to the existing I-435 bridges over Indian Creek. As work progressed, traffic was reduced to two lanes for about two weeks during the summer.

At Antioch, work continued on the western portion of the interchange. Because merge and exit lanes must connect logically and safely, the Antioch interchange will be fully opened in conjunction with the opening of the southbound U.S. 69 to eastbound I-435 flyover in late 2008.

“Phasing is so important. Ramps can’t be opened until other steps are complete,” Qualls said, to ensure continuity and safety.

Now, in 2008, the push is on to complete as much of the remaining heavy construction work as possible, leaving only finishing work such as landscaping, planting and painting for 2009, Qualls explained. Completion work includes some of the project’s most dramatic components, such as improving the U.S. 69 and I-435 interchange that includes improvements to ramps and the flyover bridge over I-435.

“This year crews are working on finishing the flyover bridge, which is 1,700 feet tall and connects southbound U.S. 69 to eastbound I-435,” Qualls said.

Work also is continuing to improve a ramp from northbound U.S. 69 to eastbound I-435, to improve a loop ramp from eastbound I-435 to northbound U.S. 69, and to finish construction on the noise walls. The noise walls will encompass 315,716 sq. ft. (29,330 sq m), Qualls said.

Work on the project continued during the entire winter season even though it was a very intense winter from December through February.

“We had an extremely heavy winter with some nearby areas receiving double the usual snowfall. Topeka, Kan., just 45 minutes away, for example, received its fourth largest snowfall on record, so Kansas City, Kan., also experienced a lot of snow,” Qualls said. “We’re still on schedule but there were probably quite a few times when crews were not able to work or to pour concrete because it was too cold.”

The Focus435 project also includes planning and right-of-way preservation for possible future corridor improvements, although funding has not been allocated for construction of those projects, the concept has been finalized. Qualls explains that future projects extend north of the current Focus435 construction phases along U.S. 69 from south of the 119th Street interchange to north of the 95th Street interchange; and I-435 between I-35 and U.S. 69.

The current phases of Focus435 are being constructed so that future phases can be easily tied into existing roadways.

For example, ample space is being left between the current roadway and the noise walls so additional lanes can be added; and, in one instance, a ramp was set at a higher elevation, creating a hill in the roadway, in preparation of an additional flyover ramp in the future; this will eliminate the need to redo that area later, Qualls said. “In the Kansas City metro area that is so important because there is so much traffic and the area is continuing to grow rapidly. … When the funding happens the plans will be there.” CEG

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