Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) unveiled plans Nov. 17 for reconstructing Interstate 64/40, the largest project in MoDOT’s history and its first design/build effort. This $535 million project would be the highway’s first major design change since it was built from the 1930s to the 1960s.
MoDOT officials indicated the project would be done in three years rather than four years. However, the project would closed parts of the highway for long periods of time.
Officials explained the reconstruction would repair the crumbling road bed and deteriorating bridges. In addition, the project includes fixing the tight-loop ramps, which were designed for 1950s’ traffic. Approximately 170,000 vehicles traverse the highway daily.
MoDOT selected Gateway Constructors as the main contractor. Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission voted unanimously to approve Gateway because it proposed to cut construction time from four to three years.
Granite Construction of Watsonville, Calif., would lead the team, which includes Fred Weber Inc. of Creve Coeur, Millstone-Bangert Inc. of St. Charles, Parsons Transportation Group, URS and Vector Communications.
Gateway’s construction plan would have three phases and would start in spring 2007. All lanes on I-64 and I-170 would be open by Dec. 31, 2009. Final work and landscaping would follow with a completion date of July 31, 2010.
Crews would start rebuilding the I-170 interchange in the spring. Lane closures would be limited to nights and weekends.
Traffic would be most affected in 2008 when the western half of the highway would be closed in both directions. The next year those lanes would reopen and the eastern half of the corridor would close.
The competing team, FAM-64 led by Fluor Enterprises Inc. of Texas, proposed to build a shorter section of the highway eastward from Spoede to Big Bend Boulevard. The work would have been less but would have taken longer to complete. The team settled on closing eastbound traffic for approximately two years and later closing the westbound lanes.
MoDOT Director Pete Rahn presented two plans to the community. He explained how the two bids were evaluated using several project goals.
MoDOT asked the teams to outline:
• The scope of work and their construction plan for building it;
• How they will maintain traffic flow;
• Their public information plan;
• The schedule including milestone and completion dates; and
• How they’ll meet workforce and disadvantage business enterprise goals.
“The construction schedule minimizes the overall length of closures, quickly completes major sections of the roadway and maximizes our regional road system as detours during construction,” Rahn said.
MoDOT’s original idea was to build or rebuild 12 mi. of roadway and 12 interchanges between Sarah Street in mid-town to Spoede Road in west St. Louis County. The proposal was expected to be completed in under four years.
Gateway managed to shave a year off the project. The team also shaved off a half mi. on each prong of the project.
In addition, Gateway proposed reconstructing the highway from west of Spoede Road to east of Kingshighway Boulevard. The project would include rebuilding the pavement, bridges and all 12 interchanges. One lane would be added in each direction from west of Spoede Road to Interstate 170.
“We have tremendous confidence in this team,” Missouri Transportation Director Pete Rahn said. “We are extremely confident they can deliver this project on time and within the budget.”
To help ensure timely completion of the project, MoDOT offered a $5 million incentive to meet deadlines and finish the work as promised. A fine of $24,300 a day will be assessed for missed milestones.
George Harvey, Granite’s construction manager, indicated that the biggest challenge in the reconstruction is time constraints.
“But it’s not so different from what we’ve done many other places before,” Harvey explained.
For instance, Harvey said his company recently completed a project where they built 8 mi. in two years in Minneapolis.
“This one [project] is half as long and has more bridges. We also have a schedule so we can be ready for it.”
Harvey said the situation with I-170 as well as on I-64/40 is not unusual. “There are almost always at least one major interchange on these big urban projects,” he said.
Granite has plenty of experience and has worked all over the country doing $3 billion of work each year, Harvey said. Granite has current projects in New York City, Orange County, Calif., and Austin, Texas.
Harvey said the I-64/40 project would be his fifth design-build in a row. “It’s new to Missouri but it isn’t a new concept,” he said.
MoDOT officials are hoping this project will become a model for future projects.
However, Wilson did confirm that the project is dealing with an pending lawsuit brought by the city of Richmond Heights. He assured the community that the lawsuit will not affect the project.
“They [community] are concerned that we’re taking too much property,” Linda Wilson, MoDOT spokeswoman said. The municipality brought suit over the plans for construction of the Bellevue and Big Bend interchanges.
MoDOT’s land purchase has concerned some Richmond Heights’ residents. MoDOT officials confirmed that it has bought only one house in Richmond Heights for rebuilding the Bellevue ramps.
“I’d say that’s pretty minimized,” Wilson said.
MoDOT has purchased 20 homes for the new Big Bend interchange. Approximately a dozen of those homes are on Harter Avenue on the northwest corner of Big Bend and 40.
“We’re buying the whole street,” Wilson said. “There’s not a way to minimize that number.”
Those homeowners sold their homes to MoDOT because they already intended to move.
“Big Bend is a major county arterial road and it was never considered that you wouldn’t rebuild it as a full interchange,” she said.
MoDOT said it intends to build a full interchange at Big Bend where motorists currently cannot go in four directions. In addition, it will rebuild an exit ramp at Bellevue for eastbound motorists and an access ramp for westbound motorists.
In addition to land issues, Richmond Heights’ lawsuit opposed having two interchanges so close together.
The issue was put to mediation last summer but that attempt failed. Both sides are preparing for a court case expected in March.
Critics of the project have argued that the project adds no new lanes and would not give motorists relief.
Wilson called the current Big Bend interchange a “1950s design.” The interchange includes rebuilding the Bellevue bridge, which the ramp provides access to nearby St. Mary’s Hospital.
As St. Louis motorists brace for the closings, MoDOT plans to coordinate plans closely with Metro, the city’s light rail and bus systems.
Wilson explained that MoDOT is attempting to focus the project’s effort on the downtown area.
Initially, community members reacted negatively to MoDOT’s plan to close down the entire 12-mi. section. However, MoDOT officials confirmed that there were no plans to shut the entire section down for the duration of the project. MoDOT did not rule out closing all lanes on parts of the section at one time.
MoDOT will undertake a number of initiatives to help ease motorists including:
• Funneling funds to make improvements to the major arterial roads including Page, Olive, Lindbergh and Manchester ;
• Adapting the signal system so the timing of stoplights moves traffic;
• Changing the striping on I-70 between I-170 and I-270 and on I-44 between I-270 and downtown;
• Narrowing the shoulders to give those roads an extra lane during the construction period;
• Reducing the construction time on the current reconstruction of the I-170 interchange at Olive through value engineering;
• Adding travel times so motorists can make informed decisions on the road;
• Maintaining the new Web site on the project so commuters can find alternate routes; and
• Establishing a 511 telephone number motorists can call for traffic updates and travel times.
Throughout construction, MoDOT announced that it would hold public open houses to address motorists’ concerns.
In addition, MoDOT has received $500,000 in grant money and will donate to local chambers of commerce to help those affected local businesses.
For more information, visit newi64.org. CEG