Middlesex Tackles Complex New Haven I-95 Job

Tue July 08, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Sharon Cohen

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) is making a sizeable investment in improving the roads and bridges of Interstate-95 North in New Haven. The I-95 projects include agreements that are all well into the millions of dollars with several different contracting firms.

ConnDOT’s I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing (NHHC) Corridor Improvement Program is a multi-modal transportation plan that features public transit upgrades and roadway enhancements along 7.2 mi. (11.6 km) of I-95, between Exit 46 or Sargent Drive in New Haven and Exit 54 or Cedar Street in Branford.

The 31-year-old Middlesex Corporation, of Littleton, MA, which has a regional office in Bristol, CT, is handling the work of the $35.6-million Contract “D.”

This contract consists of bridge and roadwork as well as a new commuter parking lot. The extensive projects entail coordination of one project engineer, three field engineers, a project superintendent, three field superintendents and a considerable number of foremen.

The team is using Primavera P3, the scheduling software program, which will coordinate up to 1,045 separate work activities. The project team also is using Expedition software to log and document all of the contract documents.

According to Tom Wood, project manager, the most challenging portion of the project is the installation of a 94.5-in. (2,400 mm) reinforced concrete pipe culvert.

The new culvert, 200 ft. (61 m) in length and 22 ft. (6.7 m) deep, is being tunneled underneath the active AMTRAK rail line and the active I-95 Thruway.

At no time during the work is automobile or rail traffic being diverted or stopped. In fact, 80 trains and more than 85,000 cars and trucks continue traveling over the tracks and roadway every day.

To complete the culvert, Angelica Boring Company of Pittsford, NY is stabilizing the soil with chemical grouting. Only one-quarter-inch of settlement of the railway and roadway is allowed. A tunnel-boring machine is being used to tunnel 22 ft. (6.7 m) below the tracks and roads.

This portion of the project is taking approximately 45 days to complete, because of environmental constraints as well as the complexities of the job overall. One of the difficulties, said Wood, is that boring cannot be stopped once it is started. The contracting team works around-the-clock in eight-hour shifts until the culvert tunnel is done.

Another aspect of Contract “D” is the widening of 2.5 mi. (4 km) of roadway on I-95, which includes the addition of two median barriers in the middle of I-95, a full breakdown lane next to the high-speed lane, an additional low-speed lane and a full shoulder next to the slow-speed lane.

Once again, work must be done without closing any lanes during the daytime. At night until 6 a.m., ConnDOT allows contractors to close one lane down.

“The fines for not following this ruling are very stiff,” said Wood. If the road is closed for any portion of an hour after 6 a.m. the fine is $15,000; after 7 a.m., $50,000; and after 8 a.m., $75,000.

Middlesex is relying on its Komatsu and Cat equipment to get the work done. The PC400s, PC300s and D6 dozers have been carrying the load of the project. Middlesex owns and repairs all of its own equipment.

ConnDOT, encouraged by the results of Boston’s emission reduction program related to the “Big Dig,” is implementing a similar program.

To help improve air quality ConnDOT implemented new methods for reducing emissions during the NHHC Corridor Improvement Program. The reasons for these environmental standards include:

• Construction takes place along a densely populated corridor,

• Reduced chemical and particulate emissions will benefit area residents and visitors, as well as laborers working near diesel engines, and

• Work on all upcoming projects will last for approximately 10 years. The emissions-reduction initiative will reduce the impact on air quality that would otherwise be associated with such a large-scale, long-term construction project.

Contractor requirements related to emission control devices (such as oxidation catalysts) and/or clean fuels (such as PuriNOx) are required for diesel-powered construction equipment, with engine ratings of 60 hp (44.7 kW) and above, that are on the project or assigned to the contract in excess of 30 days.

In addition, truck staging zones will be established for diesel-powered vehicles waiting to load or unload materials. The zones will be located where diesel emissions will have the least impact on abutters and the general public:

• Idling is limited to three minutes for delivery and dump trucks and other diesel-powered equipment (with some exceptions).

• All work will be conducted to ensure that no harmful effects are caused to adjacent sensitive receptors, such as schools, hospitals, and elderly housing.

• Diesel-powered engines will be located away from fresh air intakes, air conditioners, and windows.

To comply with the ConnDOT mandates, Middlesex put catalytic converters on all the equipment rather than use PuriNOx. Middlesex found that the chemical does not work well in the winter and is difficult to get in large quantities.

Another project on Middlesex’s list was to rehab the Cherry Hill bridge. The company improved the clearance for tractor-trailers by raising the bridge 15 in. (38 cm) with hydraulic jacks and putting in new bearing pads.

It also is in the process of replacing the Todds Hill Road concrete bridge over the highway. A 125-ton (113 t) Link-Belt crane removed the steel beams. To replace the 60-ft. (18 m) wide and 100-ft. (30 m) long bridge, 600 tons (540 t) of concrete was removed, in addition to the steel, abutments and piers.

Middlesex will have to make a 30-ft. (9 m) cut into rock ledge in the coming months so it can put in a new off-ramp. Blasting is only allowed during the day, because the road is so close to the residential area. That means the company has only 10 minutes to close off I-95, get its equipment in place, finish the blasting, and remove the equipment and any ledge that may impede the roadway.

Approximately 248,508 cu. yds. (190,000 cu m) of earth will be moved throughout this project, which is located in a watershed area and by a reservoir owned by the water company. Twenty-one different environmental areas are involved and needed to comply with environmental constraints.

Other work to be completed in Contract “D” includes constructing new noise barrier walls along I-95 at Exit 54 and Todd’s Hill and Cherry Hill roads; relocating the commuter lot from Exit 54 at Cedar Street to Exit 55 at Route 1; and resurfacing both service areas on I-95 in Branford. Two retaining walls totaling more than 18,000 sq. ft. (1,672 sq m) are to be constructed at each of the rest areas.

Wood said the work is going relatively smoothly and is right on schedule.

The New Haven Harbor Corridor Improvement Program has a number of other enhancements being made over the next several years.

These include new rail stations for Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton and Westbrook, CT, all served by the Shore Line East Station Railroad.

Program work will be coordinated closely with work on other key roadways, such as Route 1 in Branford and Route 80 in North Branford and the frontage roads in East Haven. The goals of the overall program are as follows:

• Improvements along the varied sections of Interstate 95 to ease the present traffic congestion;

• Enhanced access to and marketing of alternative transportation systems;

• Construction of a new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge to eliminate existing deficiencies and to meet modern standards;

• Operational and safety improvements on Interstate 95 to significantly reduce abnormally high accident rates; and

• Considerable improvements designed to meet 2015 travel demands.