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Major Moves Targets Borman Expressway

Tue May 20, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

Good news for Chicago-Indiana commuters: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Major Moves has targeted the aging Frank Borman Expressway, an east-west highway in northwest Indiana that carries Interstates 80 and 94 and U.S. highways 6 and 41.

With an average of 160,000 vehicles per day, the Borman Expressway is one of Indiana’s busiest highways. The project encompasses the complete rebuilding of the 13-mi. (20 km) expressway from the Indiana-Illinois state line to just east of the I-65 interchange.

Work on the 2008 schedule includes rebuilding the south side of the I-65 interchange, building new ramps, upgrading existing ramps, the rehabilitation of bridges in the area, the addition of travel and connector lanes and replacement of pavement.

There are currently two contracts underway.

The first contract, awarded in 2007 to Walsh Construction Company of Chicago for $46.3 million includes:

• Reconstruction of I-65 in the area where it crosses over I-80/94

• Construction of new ramps at the south end of the interchange from northbound Interstate 65 to westbound I-80/94

• Construction of new ramps from eastbound I-80/94 to southbound I-65

• Rehabilitation of three bridges within those areas

The work started in April 2007 and is scheduled for completion in November 2008. According to Marc Arema, Walsh Construction project manager, it’s “close to being on schedule.” To keep things moving, crews are working 10-hour days — and double shifts at night when setting beams — but one of the challenges they face that threatens the schedule is that the region is a low area surrounded by lakes and wetlands.

“There’s a lot of ground water,” Arema said, which has been compounded by wet weather last year and this spring. “There’s a flooding problem.”

He explained that when Walsh bid the job in the winter, they weren’t aware of flooding issues. The right-of-way is next to a wetlands.

“It’s mostly sand. We can get back in pretty quickly after it rains, but we have to pump a lot.”

Compounding the problem is an equalizer pipe that stretches across I-65 in four phases.

“They didn’t take maintenance of flow into account,” Arema said. “The elevation of the pipes is different. The east side backs up (it drains east to west) so the east side is completely flooded. We had to close ramps to extend the pipes to get proper drainage.”

Water isn’t the only challenge Walsh crews faced. In addition to reconstruction of two bridge structures, which included complete demolition, “shrinking,” and placement of MSD walls and abutment faces, they built one new bridge. Arema said it was a “tough bridge,” due to the tight area, busy ramp and temporary sheeting.

“It was difficult, especially in [some of the seven] phases,” Arema said. “We were removing old pavement, replacing it, moving 200 feet south. … We had to maintain traffic when we started; it’s a very busy ramp.”

On top of that, right-of-way issues shortened all the bridges. Arema said they had to widen the road while maintaining the same right-of-way. Despite the difficulties, he said the new bridge is the longest single-span post-tension bridge in the United States, at just under 250 ft. (76 m). Its three segment concrete beams rise 8.5 ft. (2.6 m), requiring some big cranes, rented locally.

Other equipment onsite includes pavers, three excavators, five dozers, three rollers, two loaders and a paving spreader.

Materials for the job include 230,000 sq. ft. (21,300 sq m) of MSD wall and 100,000 sq. yd. (83,600 sq m) of concrete pavement. Approximately 250,000 yd. (228,600 m) of dirt were excavated.

Select closures, daytime restrictions on I-65 and nighttime restrictions on I-80/94 should allow construction to finish in half the time, as well as increase safety for the traveling public and construction workers. At peak, about 80 people were working onsite; presently, there are approximately 30 to 40 onsite.

The second contract, awarded in 2008 to the joint venture of Superior Construction Co. Inc., Gary, Ind., and E&B Paving Inc., Anderson, Ind., for $46 million, includes:

• Reconstruction of I-65 in the area where it crosses over I-80/94

• Upgrading the other ramps between the Borman Expressway and I-65

• Rehabilitation of six bridges in that area

• Reconstruction of the Colorado Street bridge

Work began in early 2008 and is scheduled for completion July 1, 2009, with an anticipated road closure restriction on I-65 of 275 days from March 1, 2008 to November 30, 2008. At peak, manpower numbers 125 workers on a six-day week schedule with some night work for pile driving, bridge demolition and beam erection.

The project consists of removing three bridges; constructing six new bridges; removing approximately 1 mi. (1.6 km) of I-65 and all ramps/loops at the interchange with I-80/94 and replacing it with 12 in. (30.5 cm) and 16-in. (40.6 cm) QC/QA concrete pavement.

In addition to 100,000 sq. yd. of QC/QA concrete pavement, the project will require 120,000 sq. ft. (100,335 sq m) of MSE wall and 250,000 cu. yd. (191,139 cu m) of excavation.

Aging Highway

Repaired, Updated

Commencing at the state line where it meets the Kingery Expressway, the Borman extends east to the Lake/Porter County line. Originally named the Tri-State Highway or Indiana 420, the Borman provides a free alternative to the nearby Indiana Toll Road/Chicago Skyway on Interstate 90, and serves as a major truck thoroughfare.

Construction began in 1949; the roadway was built in segments during the 1950s. Named for Gary, Ind., native Frank Borman, an International Aerospace Hall of Famer and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Famer who served as commander of the 1968 Apollo 8 Mission (the first manned lunar orbital mission), the Expressway has been designated a high priority corridor. As such, it is eligible for federal funding in association with the extension of Interstate 69 to the Texas/Mexico border.

For now, work focuses closer to home. To reduce delays caused by congestion, reconstruction of the Borman began in 2004 with the removal and replacement of all pavement from Calumet Avenue to Cline Avenue. A fourth lane and collector-distributor lane in each direction was added. Indianapolis Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue interchanges were reconfigured, bridges over the Borman were reconstructed and sound barrier walls were reconditioned.

From Cline to Georgia Street, pavement in the eastbound lanes was removed and replaced. A fourth lane was added to the westbound lanes. Grant Street and Broadway interchanges were widened and bridges on Grant Street, Broadway and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive were replaced. Lighting and Intelligent Transportation Systems and other prep work also were completed that year.

In 2005, work was concentrated on the segment of the Borman between Cline Avenue and Broadway in Gary. With traffic shifted and detoured, crews from Gary-based Superior Construction removed and replaced the old westbound pavement from Cline Avenue to Georgia Street; widened the highway to four lanes in each direction; installed new, longer ramps and added a collector-distributor lane so motorists can enter and exit the interstate without impeding traffic. Interchanges at Burr Street, Grant Street and Broadway were reconstructed. Workers rebuilt the roadway from the ground up, working 24-hours a day, seven days a week to complete this segment on schedule.

The following year, outside retaining walls were rebuilt and the roadway mainline was reconstructed, with the addition of a fourth lane in each direction. Sound barrier walls were reinstalled.

Construction in 2007 concentrated on rebuilding the north side of the I-65 interchange. Work on the first of three contracts, awarded to Walsh Construction, began in April and is scheduled for completion in 2009. It includes the 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 in the area.

Nighttime lane restrictions were in place during bridge work. The ramp from northbound I-65 to westbound I-80/94 is restricted to one lane with an 11-ft. (3.3 m) width restriction until the project is completed in November 2008 and speed limits have been reduced to 45 mph on the interstates and to 40 mph on the ramps through the work zone.

Major Moves

The $187 million Major Moves New Construction Interchange Modification project consists of three contracts over a three-year period that commenced in spring 2007. When completed in 2009, the highway is expected to handle traffic volume for 20 years and will feature more lanes (four through lanes in each direction); new collector-distributor lanes for easier entry and exit; longer interchange ramps and new bridges for better traffic flow; and enhanced lighting and improved drainage. The project is the last element of the complete rebuilding of the Borman Expressway between the Indiana/Illinois state line and I-65.

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, the counties where the ITR is located will receive one-time payments of between $40 million and $120 million 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. The legislature also directed $500 million from the lease proceeds be dedicated to a Next Generation Fund to be used later for transportation projects.

Looking Forward

The third contract, slated to begin construction in 2009 and to be completed by December 2009, includes:

• Replacing the existing highway pavement from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Central Avenue

• Adding a new fourth lane

• Replacing the bridge on Colorado Avenue over the Borman

• Adding a travel lane and connector lane to eastbound and westbound I-80/94

Once the three-year, three-phase project is complete, the Borman Expressway will have 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. This fully funded Major Moves project will reduce congestion and increase safety and mobility for motorists — news all drivers along the Indiana-Chicago corridor are sure to greet with relief. CEG

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