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Massive Multi-Year IDOT Plan On Schedule

A fast-paced project calls for longer shifts.

Sat June 20, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Irwin Rapoport

The Rieth-Riley Construction Co. Inc. (RR) has already finished the first (the south side) of two highway reconstruction/upgrade projects to freeway status in Westfield for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and it will complete the northern section by December 2015.

The southern section, which cost $63 million, covered 2.5 mi. (4 km) from 146th Street to 161st Street, had work start in March 2013 and end in June 2014. This included a new round-about interchange at 161st Street. The northern section, $59 million, covers 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) from 161st Street to state Road 38 and had crews begin the work in October 2013. This project also includes the construction of new interchanges at state Road 32 and 191st Street, and some work on SR 32.

“As they finished the first contract,” said Nathan Riggs, public information director of INDOT’s east central district, “they were able to hit the ground running with the next contract. The interchange at SR 32 will replace a signalized intersection. Upgrading U.S. 31 to freeway standards is intended to reduce congestion, improve safety and provide continuity of commerce and regional travel for a U.S. highway that stretches from Michigan to Alabama. Work on three congested sections of U.S. 31 is underway or complete, and when all three sections are complete, travel time between Indianapolis and South Bend is expected to decrease by about 30 minutes.”

This section of road has two lanes in each direction. Because so many freight-hauling trucks use the road, it was important for INDOT to have a road base that can withstand the daily impact of so much weight, combined with the freeze/thaw cycles during the winter. U.S. 31 traffic volumes on this corridor range from about 75,000 ADT near I-465 to about 25,000 ADT near state Road 38.

To help minimize the traffic impact for the construction crews, the nearby Keystone Parkway was identified and utilized as an alternative route during construction and as an official detour during the closure in 2014.

With residential development increasing alongside U.S. 31, there was a need for new exits and entrances and service roads. The new U.S. 31 corridor north of I-465 will include 18 new interchanges or overpasses and two new flyover ramps at the I-465 interchange.

Anticipating future residential and commercial growth was an important factor in the design of the highway.

“Local governments and community groups were involved from the beginning to develop context sensitive solutions to everything from interchange design plans to incorporating multiuse trails to aesthetic elements such as lighting and landscaping,” said Riggs. “Design engineers planned this project to fit into the existing local landscape and used traffic projections for the next 20 years and beyond.

“The functional life expectancy of the pavement is anticipated to be and is designed to be over 20 years,” he added, “at which time a simple resurface would be anticipated. The structural life of the entire pavement thickness from treated soil sub-grade and aggregate sub-base through the base and intermediate layers of HMA is anticipated to be much longer — perhaps 40 or 50 years before any major structural or full-depth repairs would be required. Of course, material and construction practices can always have an effect on roadway life spans, but if built properly, engineers expect to see a long life on U.S. 31 based on the pavement design.”

Right-of-way and utility relocation is a major challenge for Rieth-Riley, said Mike Jaskela, the contractor’s senior project manager.

“These issues are taking longer than originally anticipated,” he notes. “It’s a fast-paced project. It was done at INDOT’s bidding and it was accelerated — it just didn’t get built. But INDOT is being very understanding and everything we’ve done has been right on schedule and we’re managing the completion date.”

The utilities include gas —Citizens; fiber — Frontier, AT&T; and electrical — Duke.

“U.S. 31 is one of the main corridors for utilities north and south of Hamilton County,” said Jaskela. “INDOT gives us the schedule of when the utilities will do the relocation work and we have to clear space for them so that they know where they can relocate to. Some utilities are quick about the work. It all depends — it’s kind of hit and miss. We try to work around them, but we have a lot of utilities on this job and are trying to keep the schedule progressing.”

The asphalt over concrete road is being replaced with a full-depth asphalt road. RR did not install temporary roads to help as part of its traffic management plan, but did widening and strengthen the existing roadway to provide for maintenance of traffic.

“We restricted traffic,” said Jaskela. “About half the job was four lanes wide and the other half is two lanes because of the increased traffic flow approaching the city. It’s fairly heavy during the rush hour period, but not too bad during the majority of the day. The safety of our crews is important and we set up a barrier wall — we have about 35,000 feet of barrier wall on the project at any given time. We cut accesses in the wall to be able to get our trucks in and out. We just plan accordingly and try to have our materials delivered in-between rush hours as much as we can.

“Because we work longer shifts, our first load of stores and materials show up around 6 a.m. — an hour before the rush hour — and it gets us through the morning,” he adds. “We try to surge material delivery before the rush hours so we always have enough materials to work with. Our suppliers have been really good and the stone delivery has been pretty decent.”

Another significant challenge has been the work on the long MSE walls, particularly access issues.

“The walls were all very close and we are dealing with 350,000-square-feet of MSE wall,” said Jaskela, “so we ended up with very tight working conditions. On the north wall, it was always an issue of access because we are raising U.S. 31 — overall these cross streets are going up 25 feet and you have a pretty good grade difference between where you are working and maintaining traffic.”

Bridge reconstruction is no easy task and 19 bridges, of which 15 are Triple A — about 60-ft. (18 m) wide decks.

“We subcontracted out work on the four bridges on the first project to Albertson Construction and we dealt with the other four,” said Jaskela. “We’re doing all the bridge work on the second contract.”

When all the work is done, RR will have removed 130,000 tons (117,934 t) of concrete, and 87,000 tons (78,925 t) of asphalt. Most of this material will be recycled.

“We recycled all of the existing pavement — about 280,000-square yards,” said Jaskela. “All of the asphalt and concrete was milled up and used as fill material.”

The new road will consist of more than 300,000 tons (272,155 t) asphalt pavement, as well as 13,000 tons (11,793.4 t) of aggregate for shoulders.

“There is no real concrete pavement,” said Jaskela, “but there is about 38,000 square yards of concrete moment slabs for the concrete shoulders along the MSE Walls.”

Rieth-Riley crews are mainly working single shifts on the northern section, although some double-shifts were instituted on the southern section when there was a concern about not meeting the schedule, especially for mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls construction. On a normal day, RR has between 40 to 50 employees on site, bolstered by about 14 employees from the subcontractors. RR has brought in nearly 14 subcontractors, including James H Drew — electrical and signage, Gridlock Traffic — MOT and striping, CRI-railings, Pioneer Associates — Moment Slabs, Fox Contractors — Underdrains, Antigo — concrete breaking, Javelina —milling, and Halverson — portions of the bridges on the first project.

There is sufficient space for RR to set-up temporary offices on site; areas to store construction materials, equipment and vehicles; establish repair facilities; and store spare parts, fuel, and oils. It also has a temporary office about .5 mi. (.8 km) from the work site.

Rieth-Riley has a maintenance shop in Indianapolis, about 45 minutes from the Westfield site, and mechanics are dispatched when needed. For this project, the firm has is employing eight Cat excavators — two 349s, two Cat 336s, three Cat 320s, and one Cat 314 (1); seven Cat dozers — two Cat D6s and five Cat D5s; two John Deere and two Cat backhoes, six off-road trucks; one Cat 740 tractor with disc; four Cat compactors — Cat 815s and Cat CB56s, two Cat asphalt pavers; five asphalt rollers — Cat, Hamm, and Dynapac; one water truck, and one tack truck.

Much of the equipment being used was purchased for the project, with the majority of the earth moving equipment from Cat. One of the equipment dealers is MacAllister Machinery in Indianapolis.

Having new equipment on site has made life easier for Rieth-Riley in terms of maintenance issues, especially with many repairs being done by mechanics from the dealerships.

The majority of the equipment and vehicles is tracked by GPS for movement and maintenance, which gives the equipment managers real-time information on the hours used and performance issues.

“This makes life a lot easier,” said Jaskela. “We know exactly when to replace oil, parts, and schedule maintenance. They know exactly how much use we are getting out of the equipment, and how we make sure that we are utilizing it as best we can.”

While operators do not file daily reports on the condition of their equipment, all appropriate information is given to the foremen. On this project RR is using a lot of newer equipment that has specialized greasing systems. The refueling of construction vehicles is taken care of by a Rieth-Riley fuel truck, whose operator has access to several small fuel tanks that are refilled on a regular basis.

The experience gained from the southern section of the work is helping RR crews with the northern section in terms of knowing the lay of the land and problems to expect, and according to Jaskela, “it’s gotten a lot better this year. We ended up working quite a bit into December and got a lot accomplished. We basically have the same traffic managers, foremen, and superintendents from the beginning of the project. The owner has been very good to work with to get through the various problems that we are encountering.

“We’ve learned a lot of things on this project,” he added, “especially about access and coordinating between the earthwork and bridge operations. Since we are doing the majority of both operations, it’s quite advantageous to coordinate internally instead of having to coordinate between two contractors.”

As he surveys the pavement that is being replaced, Jaskela notes that while it has not received “the pavement seems to be a little bit thicker and the pavement we took out is actually in pretty good shape for its age.”

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